NORTH YARMOUTH — The Select Board on Dec. 19 approved a policy that blocks applications for retail marijuana businesses while the state grapples with establishing oversight regulations.

As directed by the board, Town Manager Rosemary Roy had discussed such a policy with the town attorney. Instead of recommending a moratorium, like nearby towns Falmouth and Yarmouth enacted, Roy presented policy language that has been adopted by other Maine communities.

Neighboring Cumberland in May unanimously banned retail marijuana sales, following a moratorium on such sales. Medical marijuana dispensaries are already allowed in the town’s Office Commercial North zone on U.S. Route 1, although there are none there.

North Yarmouth’s action follows a referendum passed in November 2016 that permits retail marijuana sales, cultivation, social clubs, manufacturing, and testing facilities. Although the law took effect in January 2017, the state has delayed implementation to Feb. 1, 2018, to allow the Legislature time to develop licensing rules for retail marijuana social clubs and establishments. Such operations are banned until Feb. 1, and the law empowers municipalities to further regulate their operation, location and licensing.

“At this time, and until further notice, the Town will not accept any applications for a business license, building permit, certificate of occupancy, site plan review, conditional use, or any other approval for the operation of any facility, building, or property related to the cultivation, manufacturing, testing, sale or consumption of retail marijuana,” the policy states.

The policy is to be used until state regulations are determined. At that point the town can decide whether to regulate or ban retail marijuana establishments, Roy told the Select Board.

“This gives our code enforcement officer a little bit of guidance until then,” she said.

The retail marijuana question narrowly passed in North Yarmouth – 1,382 to 1,251 – in November 2016.

The board voted 4-0 in favor of the policy, with Peter Lacy abstaining. Because it was his final meeting on the panel, and given his impending move to Cumberland, Lacy said did not feel he should vote on “that type of going forward policy,” he noted the following day.

Two days after the North Yarmouth board adopted its policy, town councilors in Yarmouth voted to postpone action on a proposed permananet ban on retail marijuana operations and social clubs. They intend to take up the matter Jan. 18.

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