Wiscasset voters will soon decide whether to adopt a six-month ban on marijuana-related businesses to give the town time to develop regulations for the businesses.
With a recount of the referendum question to legalize the recreational use of marijuana called off in December, retail marijuana establishments such as stores, cultivation and manufacturing facilities, and social clubs will soon be legal in Maine.
Wiscasset will now vote on whether to establish a moratorium on such establishments until it develops a permanent ordinance or revisions to the town’s zoning ordinances to regulate them.
The Wiscasset Board of Selectmen voted 3-1 on Tuesday, Jan. 3 to hold a special town meeting to decide whether to adopt a moratorium. Selectman Ben Rines was opposed.
The moratorium would prevent the establishment or operation of a retail marijuana facility for six months, with an optional six-month extension.
Currently, Wiscasset’s ordinances do not define what type of use a marijuana establishment would be, Town Planner Ben Averill wrote in a memo to selectmen.
The zoning ordinance should be updated to reflect the new state statutes related to marijuana, Averill wrote. He recommended that a moratorium be imposed until final definitions and rules are issued by the state.
Rines said the moratorium was “worrying about nothing” before voting against holding a special town meeting. He noted that the town voted in favor of the legalization of marijuana.
The official election results for Question 1, a citizen’s initiative to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, were 381,647-377,574, according to the Maine Department of the Secretary of State. Wiscasset voted in favor of legalization, 1,117-1,095.
Retail marijuana stores, social clubs, and commercial-scale cultivation and manufacturing facilities will require a license from the state. Licenses will also require local approval, although it is still unclear who on the local level will be charged with approving the licenses, according to the Maine Municipal Association.
The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry has nine months to develop rules and regulations to govern marijuana establishments. No licenses can be obtained until the rule-making process is complete, so facilities will not be able to begin operations until late 2017, according to the Maine Municipal Association.
Municipalities are authorized to develop an ordinance to regulate the number, location, and operation of retail marijuana stores, social clubs, and cultivation and manufacturing facilities, and to place additional requirements on the state license.
Several municipalities throughout the state have already adopted moratoriums on retail marijuana establishments, and several in Lincoln County are considering moratoriums.
The special town meeting will be held in about 45 days, Town Manager Marian Anderson said. Wiscasset plans to hold a public hearing on the topic beforehand.
A large-scale recreational marijuana facility has already been proposed in Wiscasset. Joseph Cotter, of Mason Station LLC, has requested a meeting with the selectmen about a proposal to transform the former Mason Station plant into a “marijuana tourist destination.”
Mason Station LLC recently paid the full back taxes on the plant, about $220,000, days before Wiscasset was going to foreclose on the property.
In an email, Cotter wrote that he hopes to meet with the board of selectmen in the new year to discuss plans for the property.