SKOWHEGAN — Selectmen agreed Tuesday night to move forward with a local ordinance that would prohibit all types of retail marijuana establishments and retail social clubs under the state’s municipal home rule authority.

The next step will be a public hearing leading up to a vote of the people of Skowhegan in June at Town Meeting.

“Speaking for myself, I don’t have strong feelings either way about this, but the town of Skowhegan voted not to have marijuana,” board Chairman Donald Skillings said of the November ballot referendum. “And that is at least the reason why I’m honoring the most people in the election from my own position, and the others can speak for theirs, as to why I’m proceeding the way I’m proceeding.

“The townspeople spoke at the election and it was a ‘no.'”

The vote of the full board Tuesday night was 5-0.

Skillings noted that if voters at Town Meeting say they want to have retail marijuana locations or social clubs in Skowhegan, then they will be asked to approve a moratorium so town officials can have time to get the language of the guidelines in place.

Otherwise, if voters agree to the ban, the prohibition ordinance will become local law.

The ordinance covers every aspect of possible marijuana sales within the town. It would ban any retail marijuana cultivation facility, retail marijuana stores, product manufacturing and testing and clubs where marijuana is consumed.

All would be “expressly prohibited” in Skowhegan, but the ordinance would not prohibit the lawful use of pot as prescribed by Maine law or conduct related to medical marijuana and would not ban recreational use.

Selectwoman Betty Austin, a Democrat, who also is a state representative for Skowhegan, said she has presented a bill for consideration that would allow towns to establish safe zones regarding marijuana around schools and public parks. At the Madison special town meeting Monday night, Rep. Brad Farrin, R-Norridgewock, said more than 40 marijuana-related bills have been presented to the Legislature since the November ballot initiative.

Skowhegan selectmen in November asked the Planning Board to compose an ordinance that would ban marijuana retail sales anywhere in town. That draft ordinance is what selectmen accepted Tuesday night.

Skowhegan residents voted 2,152-1,879 against Question 1 on the statewide referendum ballot Nov. 8.

So far in Maine, the towns of Oakland and Vassalboro have voted to ban the retail sales and social clubs. Skowhegan could join them when residents vote in June. Other communities, including neighboring Madison this week, have voted to impose a six-month moratorium on such establishments to give local officials time to come up with regulations.

With a local controlled-substance facility ordinance already in place regulating methadone clinics and medical marijuana dispensaries, Skowhegan selectmen now want to see if residents will back a measure banning retail marijuana and marijuana social clubs.

A registered facility under the existing controlled-substance ordinance in Skowhegan was adopted in 2011 by voters at Town Meeting and updated to include methadone clinics last June. Such facilities can be located only on U.S. Route 201, U.S. Route 2 east of the downtown area and at the Northgate or Southgate industrial parks.

So far, none has been proposed.

Marijuana is still illegal under federal law. With the passage of Question 1 on Nov. 8, adults 21 and older are allowed under state law 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 places a 10 percent sales tax on marijuana. Marijuana use would be prohibited in public, with violations punishable by a $100 fine.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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