WHITEFIELD — A group of local officials met this week to start turning the wheels on local rulemaking for adult-use marijuana.

Officials from the town’s Selectboard, Planning Board and Economic Development Committee — and town officials from Damariscotta, who are adjusting their municipality’s adult-use marijuana ordinances ahead of the November elections — attended the Tuesday night meeting.

Selectboard Vice Chairperson Bill McKeen said the group spoke about the “opt-in” process and what ordinances may need to be created before allowing adult-use marijuana facilities in Whitefield. He said Damariscotta officials shared how their municipality created their rules and ordinances after opting in. According to a Lincoln County News report from this month, Damariscotta is still tweaking its ordinances.

Maine’s adult-use marijuana rules went into effect Sept. 18. Under those rules, municipalities must “opt-in” to allow adult-use marijuana establishments. Whitefield has not yet opted-in.

In 2016, Whitefield voters rejected Question 1, the Act to Legalize Marijuana, by a 664-758 vote. That opinion has evidence of change, but with smaller sample size. Selectboard Chairperson Lester Scheaffer said a survey taken after 2017 Town Meeting found that 42 people were in favor of recreational marijuana in Whitefield, while 27 were not.

McKeen, who sits on the Economic Development Committee, said he believes opting-in has economic benefits for the town. He said it could increase the city’s tax base through construction of new buildings. McKeen said it seems more of a question of when they will opt-in, rather than if they will.

“I’m kind of forward-thinking on this,” he said. “I think once we get all of the questions answered, we should move forward.”

Selectwoman Charlene Donahue said there should be more discussion before the town opts-in. She added that the town would benefit from seeing how some other towns implement adult-use marijuana legislation before making any decisions for Whitefield.

“I’d like to see how it rolls out in some other towns first and some of the issues they run into,” Donahue said. “I don’t feel that Whitefield needs to be a leader on this one.”

She said she didn’t know how a new adult-use marijuana industry would fit into Whitefield. Donahue said the town’s opinion on marijuana usually depends on “who comes to the voting booth.”

“There’s a lot of people who are far more traditional,” she said, earlier saying that some residents are “free-spirited.” “It’s the dichotomy of who lives in Whitefield; that’s why I don’t know.”

Donahue said opting-in for adult-use marijuana could be an economic driver, but said it could have other impacts on the town. She said she would be worried about who is conducting inspections on marijuana facilities and people could be worried about the smell of a large marijuana growing operating.

Further, Donahue said the town would have to think of zoning where potential adult-use marijuana facilities could be. She said the town does not have “any zoning” and she assumed most of the interest would be from marijuana growing operations because Whitefield is so rural.

Sheaffer said he was “not thrilled” by the idea of recreational marijuana because it’s against federal law. He said if the federal government were to crack down on Maine’s state law, the town could potentially face a penalty.

“It might come back to bite us in the butt,” Sheaffer said. “If the town wants it, we’re going to work toward it.”

Despite the town starting to look at local rulemaking, McKeen said the town isn’t under any pressure from potential adult-use marijuana business owners “at this point.”

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