CLINTON — The Planning Board is preparing for the potential legalization of recreational marijuana with plans to send a moratorium proposal to the Board of Selectmen by its next meeting on Dec. 13.

A number of other towns in Maine have already placed moratoriums on recreational marijuana stores and social clubs, or are working on drafting the correct language to do so.

Legalization of recreational marijuana was approved in a statewide referendum on the Nov. 8 ballot with a margin of less than 1 percent, and now opponents of the referendum have called for a recount.

Unless the recount reveals a different outcome than the first count, the referendum will make it legal for people 21 or older to buy and possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana for recreational purproses. It would also allow marijuana retail stores and social clubs.

On Wednesday night, the Clinton Planning Board discussed a need for a moratorium on both medical marijuana and recreational marijuana businesses to buy them some time to write up ordinance language for the annual Town Meeting in June. The board plans to ask residents to in some way limit or ban both medical and recreational marijuana businesses due to the extra burden of regulation it would put on town officials.

The extra burden, Code Enforcement Officer Frank Gioffre said, would mean more “man hours, which translates simply to dollars that we don’t have.”

There are no medical marijuana dispensaries yet in Clinton, Gioffre said, adding that he wished the town had thought to act on that issue earlier.

He said the town doesn’t have a budget large enough to properly regulate the businesses, and residents can’t bear a large tax increase.

While Gioffre said he didn’t mean to offend those who use marijuana, he said “to take on this … is a burden to the town.”

Gioffre is currently budgeted for 25 hours per week, but if he had to monitor and regulate marijuana-related businesses as well, his job would probably become full time.

“All of a sudden, that’s a different budget,” he said. “It is painfully obvious that the town of Clinton does not have the resources to oversee such facilities.”

Gioffre said he’s received four phone calls from residents so far who are interested in turning existing structures into marijuana cultivating facilities. He’s explained to them that the town needs more time to figure out what it’s going to do on the matter, and he said they were understanding of that. He is not yet issuing permits for such construction or renovation work until the town makes more decisions.

Planning Board Chairman Mike Hachey said that while the board isn’t going to control what people do privately, they do have the ability to make local decisions on businesses. The board voted unanimously to allow Gioffre to come up with draft language for a moratorium, and they plan to hold a workshop meeting to finalize it before sending it to the select board in December.

The town can place a moratorium on something for up to 60 days, but the select board can continuously extend the moratorium if the Planning Board needs more time to write the ordinances.

The Planning Board hopes to have two ordinances — one each for medical and recreation marijuan-related businesses — ready for public notice by mid-April, so they can then be put on the June ballot.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

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