Two public hearing are scheduled for this week in Richmond on two marijuana-related issues that will appear on a special town meeting warrant in November.

One is a proposed change to the town’s land use ordinance that regulates where marijuana-related businesses could be located in Richmond. The other is a ban on the expansion of a medical marijuana grow facility that’s close to one of the town’s schools.

The Planning Board is scheduled to hold its public hearing at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Town Office. The Board of Selectmen plans to hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Marcia Buker School, at 28 High St.

James Valley, Richmond’s code enforcement, said in the weeks leading up to these public hearings that not much interest in the proposed changes is evident.

On Friday, standing with friends outside the Dresden Richmond United Methodist Church before a wedding rehearsal, Ciarra Lancaster, 22, said regulating commercial marijuana businesses isn’t really talked about in town among people she knows.

While her friends joked about the availability of legal recreational marijuana, they said they were not concerned about whether medical marijuana is grown close to schools.

When voters narrowly approved the statewide recreational marijuana referendum last November, they also opened the door to marijuana-related enterprises such as smoking lounges, retail shops and processing facilities. Because local ordinances made no provision for where those types of businesses would be allowed, many communities opted to impose temporary bans to give local planning boards time to draft proposals.

In Sagadahoc County, Richmond is among the majority of communities that voted in favor of recreational marijuana. The vote was 1,016 for it and 902 against.

At a special town meeting in January, Richmond residents approved a temporary ban on allowing marijuana-related enterprises in town.

Since that vote, a number of changes to the land use ordinance have been proposed, including requiring anyone operating a pot-related enterprise such as a social club or retail shop to obtain an annual license.

In addition, any retail pot-related business or social club would be restricted to the highway commercial district by Interstate 295.

Even as town officials had been working to craft restrictions on commercial pot enterprises, a loophole in the laws governing medical marijuana was discovered.

The Richmond Planning Board had approved an application by 150 Maine LLC to convert 30,000 square feet of vacant space to a medical marijuana grow facility. Because it met the requirement of the town’s ordinances, the Planning Board had no cause to reject it, even though the facility is less than 300 feet away from Richmond Middle/High School. State law governing medical marijuana contained no limits on how close grow operations by registered primary caregivers could be to schools. That prompted emergency legislation near the end of the legislative session that wrapped up earlier this year.

Richmond now is seeking a temporary ban on development of any additional such facilities so that town officials can have time to review and propose changes to Richmond’s ordinances, including the land use ordinance.

As Richmond residents decide what they want, questions about commercial pot businesses are still open at the state level.

On Monday, the Legislature is expected to convene in a special session to consider regulations and oversight of the state’s marijuana industry.

While it’s legal now to grow and possess a limited amount of marijuana for personal use, the state lacks a regulatory framework to govern commercial enterprises, and lawmakers have imposed a temporary ban on those businesses until Feb. 1, so that regulations could be developed.

That deadline could be extended by 11 months if a bill proposed at the end of last week by House Republican Leader Ken Fredette for Gov, Paul LePage earns enough votes to delay consideration of the adult-use marijuana market.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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