FAIRFIELD — The Fairfield Planning Board is beginning early discussions on whether to regulate retail marijuana sales and businesses in town.

Unlike a number of surrounding towns in central Maine, Fairfield hasn’t taken a proactive approach to place a moratorium on recreational marijuana or place an outright ban on retail establishments and social clubs. Town Manager Michelle Flewelling said the Town Council gave direction to the Planning Board to develop standards on for retail marijuana establishments for the town’s land use ordinances.

Flewelling said town Code Enforcement Officer Nicole Martin recently attended a presentation by the Maine Municipal Association for towns about the issue of marijuana legalization. She plans to take the lessons from that presentation to the Planning Board at its meeting Monday.

Flewelling said the board should look to see if such businesses would fit the town before making a judgment to restrict them.

“The Town Council felt that having the Planning Board look into this was a better option than to instantly go into a moratorium,” Flewelling said.

The Town Council will be looking for a recommendation from the Planning Board on how to proceed, but Flewelling said the board’s March 6 meeting probably won’t produce a recommendation. Instead, she said, it will likely be only a continued discussion.

“I don’t think they’re close to coming up with a recommendation,” she said.

She said the board was still in the early stages of discussions and was awaiting more information on what state regulations will look like before proceeding.

In the meantime, Flewelling said, it would be a “waste of time” for the town to create municipal regulations without knowing how they would fit in with state regulations. Possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana for adults over the age of 21 effectively became legal Jan. 30. It eventually will become legal to buy and sell marijuana, but lawmakers still need to create a regulatory system for that, which is supposed to be completed later this year.

Voters passed the law in November, and after a brief unsuccessful recount challenge by opponents, Gov. Paul LePage signed a proclamation on Dec. 31, 2016. However, on Jan. 27, LePage signed a bill to delay retail marijuana sales in the state.

A number of other surrounding towns have taken different, more hands-on approaches. For example, in early February, Litchfield enacted a 180-day moratorium on establishing recreational marijuana businesses, a move similar to a number of other communities. The town of Clinton enacted an emergency 60-day moratorium in January. Oakland recently voted to ban retail marijuana sites, and Norridgewock residents will vote on a similar measure March 6 at their Town Meeting.

Flewelling said the concern the Fairfield Town Council had was that an immediate moratorium would not make sense without knowing what the state regulations are. However, she said that doesn’t mean the town couldn’t enact one later. She said councilors simply have decided to wait.

“We’ve left every option on the table,” she said.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis

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