‘We will table it, but we have it on our radar’

Rockport Select Board tables crafting new marijuana growing and retail rules, pending state recount

Tue, 12/06/2016 - 2:45pm

    In the aftermath of the Nov. 8 statewide vote that approved a measure that legalizes cultivating, using and selling recreational marijuana and paraphernalia, town and cities are gulping, trying to understand what new laws mean for possible head shops, crops, and even pot social clubs within their municipal limits.  It’s a lot for local leaders to take in, and when the state itself is conducting a recount of the ballots — at the request of the group “No on 1” — nothing is certain until well into January. Perhaps even nine months later, for even if ultimately approved, the state will need to write its own rules governing legalization of a formerly illegal substance.

    But already, there have been a few informal queries to the Rockport Select Board from potential growers and sellers of marijuana.

    With all that in mind, the Rockport Select Board agreed Monday evening, Dec. 5, at a regularly scheduled meeting, to table the issue. The agenda included talking about a possible moratorium on pot-related commercial activity — selling and growing — but 30 minutes into the topic, the board voted unanimously to table it.

    “We don’t need to reinvent the wheel,” said Town Manager Rick Bates. “Residents need to know that the board is paying attention to it. It’s not like you are sitting, just waiting for stuff to happen.”

    He had cautioned that all municipalities in Maine are currently studying what to do, and with the help of the Maine Municipal Association, sorting out the local ramifications.

    “There’s a enough time, and we don’t have to act tonight or even next month,” he said. “Every town in Maine is looking at this. If the vote stands, there will be adequate time for us to look at ordinances and make sure we are correct.”

    The board had discussed directing the town’s Ordinance Review Committee to research what other municipalities are doing, especially in states with similar marijuana state laws.

    According to Governing magazine, 26 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana in some form. Three more were expected to join the ranks with medical marijuana approval.

    If Maine’s recount holds with the measure’s approval, then Maine would be the eighth state approving both medical and recreational marijuana. The other states with similar approvals are Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, California and Massachusetts.

    The Maine measure legalizes marijuana for recreational use by adults 21 years of age or older.  The Nov. 8 referendum asked voters: “Do you want to allow the possession and use of marijuana under state law by persons who are at least 21 years of age, and allow the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing, and sale of marijuana and marijuana products subject to state regulation, taxation and local ordinance?”

    Official election night results showed a difference of 4,073 votes between the Yes and No vote. According to the state, the vote was 381,647 voting in favor and 377,574 against.

    The recount is under way in Augusta at the Maine Dept. of Public Safety, and is expected to take four to six weeks, according to the Maine Secretary of State’s office. Currently, the recount is focused on Portland ballots, and will then expand to Maine’s other larger municipalities.

    The State Police are responsible for retrieving the ballots from each municipality, driving to the city halls and town offices, picking up the boxes, and then returning to Augusta where the ballots are being recounted.

    “It would be highly unlikely that it would get overturned,” said Select Board member Owen Casas. “They are delaying for whatever reason.”

    He said he was aware of one person in Rockport who wants to grow marijuana. Select Board member Brendan Riordan said he knew another person who is also interested in the commercial marijuana activity.

    The board agreed that with state rulemaking nine to 10 months after the recount, local permit applicatiosn would be well in the future. 

    “There is no real rush for us to do anything,” said Select Board Chairman Bill Chapman. “We could charge the Ordinance Review Committee to look at.”

    Because Police Chief Randy Gagne was the meeting to talk about the Camden-Rockport police chief contract, the board asked his opinion on the marijuana topic.

    “I think you have the right idea,” he said. “Look at it as a town. We are still looking for guidance as law enforcement. It’s something every town in the state of Maine is going to have to go through. You are on the right path.”

    Select Board member Geoff Parker suggested sending the topic to the Ordinance Review Committee, which, he said, “reflects the values of town and this particular board.”

    He suggested the ORC research other towns and local control entities throughout the country.

    There was also mention of revenue from the business of marijuana.

    “We only get it back from revenue sharing,” said Chapman. “If we get any revenue sharing.”

    The measure passed in Rockport by just 10 votes, which signifies, the board agreed, that half town is happy with the approval and have the town is not.

    The board agreed that there was more discussion to be ensue, and possibly get the ORC to include it on that committee’s summer agenda.

    “We will table it, but we have it on our radar,” said Chapman.

    Related stories

    Camden Select Board considering marijuana retail moratorium Dec. 6

    State schedules recount of marijuana and education tax ballot votes



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