OAKLAND — Town councilors in Oakland might have become the first in Maine to adopt an ordinance Wednesday night that prohibits the retail sale of marijuana and the establishment of marijuana social clubs.

The 5-0 vote does not prohibit the legal use and the legal cultivation of marijuana as approved by Maine voters in the Nov. 8 marijuana referendum, Oakland Town Manager Gary Bowman said before Wednesday council meeting. Bowman said marijuana social clubs would be much like bars or pubs, where customers can “smoke a joint in an atmosphere with your friends”.

That will not be happening in Oakland.

Eric Conrad, at the Maine Municipal Association, said the Oakland vote “is either first or right up there” among the first to ban such establishments outright.

“I can’t guarantee that there’s not some town somewhere, but I just talked to our head lawyer and she said, and I agree, that there aren’t many that are this far along in a prohibition yet,” Conrad said. “As far as we’re concerned, if they’re not the first, they’re one of the very first.”

One resident Wednesday night said she is a medical marijuana caregiver and objects to the permanency of such a ban and the word “prohibition” itself.


“I have a big problem with the word ‘prohibition,'” Andrea Thomas told council members. “We’re not all just stupid stoners. There’s a lot of people in this community who need this.”

Council Chairman Michael Perkins said the board simply was “erring on the side of caution” for the community and the children of Oakland until the state figures out how to regulate the law. He said the town can revisit the question of a total ban if residents petition to do so.

Thomas countered, saying there are bars and liquor stores in Oakland that no one seems to mind. She said alcohol consumption is far worse than marijuana use.

Councilor Don Borman pointed out that Oakland was once a “dry town” banning sales of hard liquor, but that was reversed when residents petitioned the town to lift the ban. Councilman Dana Wrigley added that the ban also is being fair to retailers who want to invest money in a business that might never open.

The marijuana law, which passed by a margin of about 4,000 votes, allows towns to regulate the number, location and operation of retail marijuana stores, cultivation, manufacturing and testing facilities and social clubs, and also can impose local licensing requirements. They also can become dry towns by implementing an outright ban on all marijuana business, which is what Oakland did Wednesday night.

Private marijuana possession and growing will still be allowed even in towns that ban retail businesses. The ordinance does not affect medical marijuana or personal use of recreational marijuana.


The council voted 5-0 earlier this month to approve the first reading of the ordinance that would prohibit recreational marijuana establishments from starting up in Oakland.

Oakland councilors took the route of becoming a “dry town” rather than implementing a moratorium and local restrictions. Bowman told councilors last month that because the town’s comprehensive plan isn’t updated and the town doesn’t have zoning, it can’t enforce a moratorium.

Oakland residents voted 1,914-1,620 on the November ballot against Question 1, the referendum on whether to legalize the recreational sale, possession and use of marijuana.

Skowhegan selectmen in November decided to pursue becoming a dry town after residents voted 2,152-1,897 against Question 1. The Planning Board will develop an ordinance to ban marijuana businesses in Skowhegan. That is expected to be voted on by residents at the annual Town Meeting in June.

If Skowhegan residents decide not to become a dry town, officials will ask them to implement a moratorium to allow town officials time to figure out how to handle marijuana businesses. Skowhegan has a local controlled-substance facility ordinance in place regulating methadone clinics and medical marijuana dispensaries, but town officials said it is unclear if the town can use the same ordinance to regulate recreational marijuana businesses.

In Madison, Town Manager Tim Curtis said Wednesday that after taking input from residents during a Dec. 19 public hearing, selectmen have scheduled a special town meeting for Jan. 9 to vote on imposing a 180-day moratorium on marijuana retail sales and social clubs.


Curtis said that will give town officials six months to look into any changes or new ordinance language about marijuana retail stores, and any changes would be voted on at Town Meeting in June. It would allow local officials time to consider what approach to take in regulating that type of business, Curtis said.

Marijuana is still illegal under federal law and is legal for medical use under state law. With the passage of Question 1 on Nov. 8, adults 21 and older are allowed to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, grow their own plants and buy marijuana from licensed retail stores. The initiative also allows marijuana social clubs and imposes a 10 percent sales tax on marijuana. Marijuana use will be prohibited in public, with violations punishable by a $100 fine.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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