MADISON — It took only about 15 minutes Monday night for Madison residents to vote to impose a 180-day moratorium on retail marijuana sales and social clubs. The vote was aimed at giving town officials time to consider what approach to take in regulating those types of business.

Needing 50 or more registered voters to complete a quorum, the meeting was moderated by local attorney Ernie Hilton.

About seven or eight people of the 50-plus in attendance voted against the moratorium, some of whom spoke of squandering a chance for the town to make money and collect taxes since the paper mill closed.

One man told selectmen that this was their chance to “make Madison a pioneer” in Maine for a budding industry.

Another resident, Richard Greenstreet, asked what the problem was with making the town some money — the fears of proximity to schools and smoking in public are already regulated.

“This sends a bad message to new businesses in the state of Maine,” Greenstreet said. “It’s a knee-jerk reaction to people who want to come to Madison.”

Madison Town Manager Tim Curtis said that if Madison residents want to look at ways to avoid the possible effects of retail marijuana shops in residential areas, the moratorium gives town officials the time to do that.

It’s up to the town to decide what to do, he said.

“The town does not have ordinances in place that would regulate this, and that is the real issue. We need time between now and town meeting, maybe after town meeting,” Curtis said. “The state is going to be tied up with this for a while. They don’t really know the direction they’re going to go.”

Selectman Al Veneziano said the town will form a committee for public input on how to proceed.

Curtis has 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 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 last 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.

Approval of the moratorium gives town officials six months to look into any changes or new ordinance language specific to marijuana retail stores. The moratorium is retroactive to Jan. 1.

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.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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