OAKLAND — The Town Council voted 5-0 to approve the first reading of an ordinance that would prohibit recreational marijuana establishments from starting up in the town.

The town is not able to enact a moratorium on the establishments, which include recreational marijuana retail stores, manufacturing facilities, cultivation facilities and social clubs, because of its outdated comprehensive plan. The council decided to prohibit retail establishments and essentially make Oakland a “dry” town for recreational marijuana to buy time as the state figures out regulations and rules.

The ordinance does not affect medical marijuana or personal use of recreational marijuana.

On the election ballot, a majority of Oakland voters were against the Question 1 referendum, 1,914-1,620, which passed by a narrow 4,000-vote margin statewide, according to unofficial results. Question 1 opponents called for a recount which is now underway.

If the referendum passes in the recount, it will be legal for people 21 or older to buy or possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana for recreational purposes. The law would also allow for retail marijuana stores and facilities, as well as social clubs. David Boyer, campaign director for Yes on 1, has said it will probably take the state at least nine months to craft regulations and licensing rules for the businesses.

During discussion, some members of the audience questioned the ordinance. One asked if this would take away potential state funding to Oakland.

“They don’t know all those details yet,” said Town Manager Gary Bowman. Councilor Don Borman added that past promises of money for schools and general funds from the state have not often come to fruition.

Another resident asked why the town is doing this for marijuana and not for alcohol.

Borman explained that Oakland was once a dry town for alcohol as well, and when the town voted to allow liquor stores, the state had a licensing process and award system set up already. The council would like to wait for the state regulations for recreational marijuana to be figured out.

Harold Buzzell, a former budget committee member who will be a new member on the Town Council in 2017, added that there is also no test for impairment regarding marijuana now, which makes enforcement difficult.

“There’s too many balls up in the air right now,” Bowman, the town manager, said.

In other business, Chris Gaunce, chairman of the Central Maine Growth Council, asked Oakland to rejoin the council. Oakland’s expected contribution would be about $20,000.

The Growth Council has been providing grantwriting, resources for businesses and workforce assistance to Winslow, Waterville and Fairfield.

“We work with the businesses that are here, we’re working with the businesses that want to grow, we’re working with the businesses that pay taxes and we’re working with the businesses that need support,” Gaunce said.

Gaunce said the Growth Council’s goal is to get the word out about central Maine and what it has to offer so it can help current businesses attract a larger workforce as well as attract new businesses.

Kimberly Lindlof, executive director of the Growth Council, pointed out that Skowhegan spends over $150,000 on economic development and Augusta spends more than $250,000. She said this would be a great opportunity for Oakland to “toe tip” into developing its economy without a large investment.

The Town Council did not make a decision on joining the Growth Council but plans to at its next meeting on Dec. 28.

The council also heard from two applicants for Buzzell’s seat on the budget and advisory committee. Dave Groder, deputy chief of the Augusta Fire Department, said he has a lot of experience dealing with budgets in his role working for the city.

“We’ve been in negotiation for the budgets,” he said. “I’m not a stranger to the budget process.”

Max Marston worked for a division of American International Group, an insurance corporation, before going to Fabian Oil, where he’s worked for eight years. He’s also a member of the board of directors of the Maine Energy Marketers Association, where he deals with a budget as well. Marston said he is running for the position to help the town of Oakland.

The Transfer Station will also now take electronic waste, mostly for free. Televisions and computer monitors cost $4 and large commercial items will also incur a cost.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour


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