MADISON — Residents will get a chance to vote Monday night on imposing a 180-day moratorium on retail marijuana sales and social clubs to give town officials time to consider what approach to take in regulating those types of business.

The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday in the Madison Junior High School auditorium. After choosing a meeting moderator, Madison voters will discuss the question, then will be asked to say “yes” or “no” to the idea of a six-month moratorium.

The Board of Selectmen is endorsing a “yes” vote, according to Madison Town Manager Tim Curtis.

“The Madison selectmen are supporting the moratorium because it gives the town time to look at what might need to change in our current ordinances,” Curtis said Friday. “Madison does not have zoning. Every once in a while I get a call at the Town Office from a resident who is concerned that their close neighbor has started raising pigs or chickens in a residential area. Currently we have no ordinances to regulate that.”

Curtis said that if Madison residents want to look at ways to mitigate the possible effect of retail marijuana shops in residential areas, the moratorium gives town officials the time to do that. He said selectmen are not opposed to new business opportunities, but they are looking to see if the voters of Madison want some regulation as to where those businesses operate.

The Board of Selectmen took public input at a hearing Dec. 19 on whether the town should enact a 180-day moratorium on the establishment of any retail marijuana stores in town, prompting Monday’s special town meeting.

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, which makes the sale and use of recreational marijuana legal under state law. Question 1 passed by just over 4,000 votes.

Gov. Paul LePage signed a proclamation this week verifying the results of the November ballot question, and Mainers will be able to legally possess and grow pot starting Jan. 30. But there will be no place to purchase marijuana legally until lawmakers and state officials set up a regulatory program and establish rules for retail sales, which could take several months.

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.

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 under 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.

LePage also said this week he thinks a statewide moratorium would be appropriate so lawmakers can determine if Maine’s medical marijuana laws still would be necessary once recreational marijuana is being sold legally.

Curtis said a moratorium, if approved Monday night, will give town officials six months to look into any changes or new ordinance language specific to marijuana retail stores, and any proposed changes would be voted on at Town Meeting in June. The moratorium would be retroactive to Jan. 1.

Curtis has said the Board of Selectmen also might want to consider an ordinance creating safety zones around schools, churches and recreational areas that would prohibit the retail sale of marijuana within 1,000 feet of those places.

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

Skowhegan selectmen will take up the question prohibiting retail sales and social clubs at their regular meeting Tuesday night beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the Town Office on Water Street.

Oakland town councilors voted on Dec. 28 to become the first community in Maine to ban recreational marijuana retail stores and social clubs outright.

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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