ROCKPORT — During a public hearing held by the Select Board on April 29, two Rockport residents spoke in opposition of a proposed ordinance which states that three mature marijuana plants can only be grown by land owners on their property, and forbids citizens from growing plants on their property on behalf of others, who may not own land. The ordinance will appear before voters as Warrant Article 4 at the June 2019 Town Meeting.
Titled “Ordinance limiting home cultivation of marijuana for personal adult use,” the article states that cultivation of marijuana by adults of 21 years in age is limited to three mature plants, 12 immature plants and an unlimited number of marijuana seedlings on their property.
“No person shall be permitted to cultivate marijuana plants or seedlings on a parcel or tract of land on which he or she is not domiciled. Nothing in the ordinance is intended to prohibit the lawful cultivation, use possession or conduct pursuant to the Maine Medical use of Marijuana Act 22 MRD+SA section 2421-2430-B,” the article reads.
Resident Owen Casas objected to the ordinance language during the public hearing, saying said that, if passed, the ordinance would deny citizens the opportunity to have a neighbor grow their allowed number plants for them if said individual was not a land owner.
He also referenced the success of community gardens in town, which allow people to rent plots of land to grow vegetables.
“It’s an example of one land owner allowing others to enter into agreements to grow things on their property; it’s fenced-off, it’s a good community gathering place. I’m not saying that is necessarily how something of this nature with marijuana would go, but I want to point out what a community garden in town looks like,” said Casas, who recently served as State Representative for District 94, which includes Rockport. Casas is also a former Select Board member.
Casas said he queried Rockport Police Chief Randy Gagne about how many incidents in Rockport have been reported since the statewide legalization of marijuana involved pot. Casas said that although marijuana was mentioned in a few police reports, it was primarily an afterthought to more serious offenses and that crimes involving alcohol outnumbered these many times over.
“Not everyone owns property,” said Casas. “If you’re a renter and your landlord does not want you to engage in [marijuana cultivation] on their property, that’s the landlord’s right. However the law now provides an additional provision for people to grow their own medical marijuana plants. So if this ordinance were to pass...you’re starting to take a ‘right’ now given by the citizenry to the citizenry, and you’re constraining it to a right of land owners – not everyone,” said Casas.
Marci Casas also spoke in opposition to the proposed ordinance, saying that the ability for farmers to lease out tracts of their land could benefit them financially while allowing non-landowning citizens the opportunity to cultivate their allocated plants.
“I think moving this [ordinance] forward would be shortsighted,” she said. “This has a real potential to help farmers. I don’t feel like we in this town should be putting our heads in the sand when it comes to marijuana. This could be a huge revenue source for us...marijuana is going to be here in the near future, it’s my opinion that it’s going to be legal in the future, so if we could get out ahead of it and find ways to better police it while earning revenue.”
If passed, the ordinance would go into effect immediately following the June Town Meeting, and would be enforced by municipal officers or their designee. No members of the public spoke in favor of the ordinance.
In notes prepared for the public hearing by Town Manager Rick Bates, Bates said that the ordinance was prepared with the assistance of the town’s legal counsel.
“This ordinance clears up a loophole in the statute by making it clear that you cannot grow marijuana for anyone, that does not live at the place where the plants are being grown. There have been some issues in parts of the State and other parts of the country, where individuals are paying someone to grow their plants for them, bypassing the ‘commercial growing’ operations, currently not permitted in Rockport,” said Bates.
Voting on articles which appear on the warrant for the June Town Meeting will take place Wednesday, June 17 at 7 p.m. at the Rockport Opera House.