If voters approve Question 1 at the polls Tuesday, Nov. 8, the Damariscotta Board of Selectmen will consider a temporary ban on marijuana establishments and social clubs.
Chair Robin Mayer brought the topic up during the selectmen’s meeting Wednesday, Nov. 2.
Question 1 would legalize marijuana, subject to regulation and taxation, for adults 21 and up. Medical marijuana is already legal in Maine; Question 1 would legalize the recreational use of the drug.
Other municipalities have adopted six-month moratoriums to give themselves time to establish regulations about where marijuana could be publicly sold or consumed, Mayer said.
The Bangor City Council voted for a six-month ban of all retail cultivation and sale of recreational-purpose marijuana. The moratorium will go into effect if voters pass Question 1.
Gray also adopted a six-month moratorium to develop regulations on clubs and retail establishments where marijuana can be sold or consumed.
Under the proposed legislation, a municipality may regulate the number of retail marijuana stores, the location and operation of retail marijuana establishments and social clubs, and may prohibit the operation of retail marijuana establishments and social clubs.
Municipalities may also adopt and enforce regulations for retail marijuana establishments and social clubs, which are at least as restrictive as state laws and regulations.
“I think it would be worthwhile to have a six-month moratorium to get our ducks in a row,” Mayer said.
Mayer compared the situation to the town’s moratorium on adult entertainment establishments, passed in 2014. The town enacted an adult entertainment ordinance in 2015, which placed permanent restrictions on where adult entertainment establishments can be open in Damariscotta.
The ordinance requires a 1,500-foot buffer between adult entertainment establishments and any school, day care center, recreational facility, church, or park. No adult entertainment businesses have opened since the adoption of the ordinance.
A similar moratorium for marijuana establishments would allow the town to create regulations about where marijuana could be sold, Mayer said. Community conversations and workshops could be held to get feedback from town residents.
Selectman Jim Cosgrove said he was in favor of having a town conversation, and that part of the conversation should involve looking into ways to generate revenue, possibly through permitting fees, if Question 1 passes.
“I don’t see this as a problem. I see it as an opportunity,” Cosgrove said.
Under the proposed legislation, a municipality may impose a licensing requirement separate from the state licensing authority.
In addition, the state licensing authority will provide 50 percent of the licensing fee to the municipality in which the marijuana retail establishment or social club is located.
The selectmen will discuss the possibility of a moratorium during their next meeting, on Wednesday, Nov. 16, after a special town meeting on proposed bond issues and ordinance amendments, which will start at 5:30 p.m.