SKOWHEGAN — A public hearing was held Tuesday night by selectmen on a proposed ordinance that would ban marijuana retail sales, but the prickly issue of one-way streets between North Avenue and Madison Avenue in Skowhegan took over the discussion when it was over.

Opponents of the plan making Gem and Cowette streets one way and changes to other streets made their voices heard after no one showed up to discuss the marijuana ban.

Selectmen agreed to take the marijuana issues to Town Meeting. They also agreed 5-0 to give Road Commissioner Greg Dore flexibility on what to do with the streets and to hold a public hearing on the matter.

The public hearing to discuss traffic changes on Gem, Cowette, West and Cleveland streets, along with Madison and North avenues, was scheduled for 5:30 p.m. May 23 at the Municipal Building.

On the marijuana issue, selectmen agreed in January 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 was Tuesday’s public hearing leading up to a vote of the people of Skowhegan in June at Town Meeting, when voters will have their say if they want to have retail marijuana shops or social clubs in Skowhegan.

If voters say they want retail marijuana in town, 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 recreational use of pot as allowed by Maine law or use related to medical marijuana. Skowhegan selectmen in November asked the Planning Board to compose an ordinance draft that would ban marijuana retail sales anywhere in town. That draft is what selectmen accepted in January.

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

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, on U.S. Route 2 east of downtown 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.

The marijuana law that Maine voters passed in November now includes a nine-month delay to allow state lawmakers time to create regulations for the sale of the drug and close a loophole that some believed could have allowed people under age 21 to possess the drug legally.

Gov. Paul LePage signed into law a three-month extension of that moratorium. He also pledged to use his authority to move oversight of licensing and enforcement of marijuana sales from the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry to the Maine Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations.

Maine joined eight other states that have lifted prohibitions on the drug.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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