MADISON — A public hearing is scheduled for Dec. 19 on a proposed moratorium on retail marijuana establishments and marijuana social clubs in Madison.

The hearing is set for 6:30 p.m. in the Thomas J. Elias Auditorium at the junior high school.

Town Manager Tim Curtis said the Board of Selectmen will be taking public input on whether the town should enact a 180-day moratorium on the establishment of any retail marijuana stores in town. It would allow local officials time to consider what approach to take in regulating that type of business, Curtis said.

The town’s consideration of a six-month moratorium comes as many other Maine communities are discussing or enacting regulations after the passage of Question 1 on the Nov. 8 ballot, legalizing the sale and use of recreational marijuana. Unofficial tabulations showed that Question 1 passed by just over 4,000 votes, and a statewide recount is underway.

On Election Day, Madison residents were narrowly split on the issue, with 1,187 opposed to the question and 1,084 voting in favor of Question 1.

“Even though there is a statewide recount underway on Question 1, all indications are that the act to legalize marijuana will become law in January 2017,” Curtis said.

Any business that wants to open a retail establishment in Madison has to undergo a site review process with the Planning Board. The town uses site review through the Planning Board instead of zoning regulations.

The marijuana act does not limit the privileges or rights afforded by the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act to qualifying patients, primary caregivers or registered dispensaries, including cultivation facilities associated with any of those classifications, according to the Madison document.

If it appears that the consensus of Madison residents is to enact a moratorium while officials work on the details of a specific ordinance, then the moratorium has to be passed at a special town meeting, most likely to be held in January 2017, according to Curtis.

Curtis said that will give town officials six months to look into any changes or new ordinance language specific to marijuana retail stores, and any changes would be voted on at the annual Town Meeting in June 2017.

“Something the Board of Selectmen may want to consider over the next six months would be an ordinance creating safety zones around schools, churches and recreational areas that would prohibit the retail sale of marijuana within 1,000 feet,” Curtis said.

The law also allows municipalities to prohibit the establishment of retail marijuana stores altogether, as is being considered in neighboring Skowhegan, where selectmen in November directed Town Manager Christine Almand to ask the Planning Board to come up with an ordinance that would ban such marijuana establishments in Skowhegan.

Regulations for marijuana-related businesses statewide are scheduled to be in place by Aug. 8, 2017.

Cities and towns all over Maine are gearing up for the likely confirmation of the marijuana act’s passage with moratoriums and ordinances, including the town of Farmington, where a six-month moratorium on retail sales of marijuana and social clubs where pot can be consumed was approved last month. Similar debate is underway in Augusta, Waterville, Gardiner, Clinton, Vassalboro and South Portland.

The Portland City Council last month also approved a six-month moratorium that will give the city time to develop regulations governing retail marijuana establishments. The moratorium will delay the opening of any stores, cultivation facilities, testing facilities or social clubs that sell marijuana for consumption.

“There are a lot of different aspects to discuss and the selectmen do not want to rush into rule making and regulating,” Curtis said.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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