WINDHAM — The Town Council left Windham’s marijuana task force in place Tuesday night, but the decision may only temporarily quiet unhappiness among some over the town’s still developing rules on marijuana businesses.

The task force was set up to help the town develop its rules for marijuana businesses. In 2016, Maine voters opted to legalize recreational pot possession and use, but the state has only recently adopted the rules to govern recreational sales of the drug.

One of the measures in the rules calls on towns to opt in if they want to allow retail sales of marijuana.

Windham began debating the issue this year and appointed a task force to help it consider regulations such as the zones where marijuana businesses could operate.

But last month, before the task force had finished its work, the council told the town’s lawyers to start writing the rules for growing operations, processing businesses and medical marijuana dispensaries. They also said the town won’t opt-in to allow retail recreational sales.

When task force members showed up for one of their two monthly meetings last week, they were told their committee had been disbanded. Council members said Tuesday that was a mistake and the town manager said he never scheduled the task force meeting because the council had ordered that the ordinances be written.

Although several councilors reiterated that the task force is still in business, several members said they feel as if they’ve been cut out of the process. At least one councilor suggested that was by design.

“The committee has had one goal and only one goal – to opt-in,” and that ran counter to the sentiment on the council, Councilor David Nadeau said.

Maggie Terry, the chair of the task force, told councilors that they had exhibited “disdain” for the task force and the council represented the “prejudice and closed-minded old guard” opposed to legalized marijuana.

“The council wasn’t interested in working together or even listening,” she said. “The will of the voters is totally being ignored.”

The council took no formal action Tuesday, meaning the task force stays in place for now. Some councilors also suggested that the draft ordinance on marijuana business rules, expected in about a month, should be sent to the committee, although they didn’t ask the task force to endorse the proposal or suggest changes.

At Tuesday’s meeting, some committee members said they may collect signatures to have the opt-in question put on the ballot in November. They noted that Windham voters in 2016 backed legalization. Although it was a narrow margin at that time, task force member Joel Pepin predicted it would pass more comfortably now.

Several councilors said they have taken a lot of criticism for deciding to move ahead without allowing sales of recreational marijuana.

“We’ve been bullied and browbeat over it,” Councilor Donna Chapman said, even though the town rules will likely allow for a range of marijuana businesses to operate.

“People are calling it ‘Weedham,’ ” she said.


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