VASSALBORO — A majority of residents voted to enact an ordinance banning all recreational marijuana establishments at a special Town Meeting Monday.

The vote came after a debate between supporters and opponents among the 131 people who attended the meeting at the Vassalboro Community School.

The outcome of referendum Question 1 makes it legal for people 21 or older to buy and possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana for recreational use. It also allows the establishment of recreational marijuana retail stores, growing facilities, testing facilities, product manufacturing facilities and social clubs. Many Maine towns have already enacted moratoriums or are in the process of doing so, and Oakland was the first town in the state to ban the establishments and become a “dry town.”

Jim Pfleging spoke again at the special Town Meeting about his experience as a law enforcement officer in Santa Barbara, California. He said he was at “ground zero” for medical marijuana legalization, and he saw crime increase. He also said the businesses, which he said run mostly on cash, require money laundering in some way and invite robberies.

Pfleging also said the same “shoulder tapping” that happens with people under 21 asking older people to buy them alcohol could happen with recreational marijuana.

Tyler Brown, a lifelong Vassalboro resident, spoke against the proposed ban, saying they are hard to undo in Vassalboro and would be “detrimental” to the next generation.


“I believe banning something before there is any regulation in place whatsoever … would be a folly to anyone who would want to open a business in this town,” Brown said.

Amanda Shorey, who said she has three children, said people shouldn’t worry about her children when voting on the ordinance.

“Don’t worry about my kids. Don’t worry about my kids doing a shoulder tap, because I care about my kids. I raised my kids to feel good about themselves. I’m not worried about my kids’ friends,” she said. “It disappoints me that we are so quick to shut something down when we don’t really know anything about it.”

While there seemed to be equal applause for those speaking against a ban, those who supported the ban won out in the end.

Gary Coull spoke in support of the ban, although he said he has a facility that would work well for cultivating marijuana.

“I could make a lot of money if I wanted to say this was a good thing for this town,” he said. “But it’s not more important than my grandchildren. It’s not more important than your kids.”


Those who attended voted against a motion to vote by written ballot, but it appeared that about two-thirds voted to approve the ban.

Selectman Philip Haines voted for the ban, saying after the meeting that he didn’t think this was the kind of business that would improve the town.

Selectmen Lauchlin Titus and Robert Browne voted against the ban. Titus said he planned to vote on the moratorium, which was also on the warrant for the meeting if the ban was voted down. Browne said he wanted to give the Legislature more time for action and that he was “worried about making a decision about something I don’t understand.”

The Board of Selectmen decided to hold a special Town Meeting after residents expressed support for a moratorium or ban at a public hearing in December. Of about 40 people gathered at the Town Office, most opposed the idea of allowing recreational marijuana establishments in town, and some even said they wanted to prohibit the expansion of medical marijuana establishments in Vassalboro.

In the Nov. 8 election, Vassalboro residents were against Question 1, voting it down by 1,080-1,348.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

Twitter: @madelinestamour


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