FREEPORT — Town councilors will consider allowing the cultivation of marijuana for recreational use, loosening Freeport’s strict medical-only cultivation rules. 

According to Council Chairman John Egan, the council has been approached numerous times in the past year by medicinal growers trying to pivot their business plans toward recreational use.

In August, councilors were expected to decide whether to send the question to the town’s Ordinance Committee and Planning Board, but instead decided to schedule a special meeting in the fall, the Forecaster reported at the time. 

Five months later, and shortly after the council set its goals for the year, a workshop is scheduled for 6 p.m. Jan. 21. 

“We’re opening up a discussion to hear from the industry and from the residents if they think we should consider adult-use growing operations since they’re already here,” Egan said. 

Freeport has two businesses cultivating medical marijuana,  neither of which has drawn any official complaints. 

A medical marijuana moratorium has been in place since 2016, and in 2017, the town banned retail marijuana stores, cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, testing facilities and social clubs because they “raise a number of concerns related to public safety and welfare,” especially as it relates to children, according to the ordinance. 

According to Keith McBride, economic development director, this leaves the two existing businesses in a sort of “legally non-conforming limbo.”

As for the town, Egan said allowing cultivation for recreational use would likely not change anything, as the businesses in place are already growing marijuana. It is only for the business owners “who would like to participate in the now legal adult market” that things would change, he said. 

McBride agreed.

“If the town is going to take action to allow for the existing cultivators to distribute outside of Freeport, those businesses would see growth but there would be no major impact townwide,” he said.

As recreational marijuana grows in popularity and as more retail establishments open in neighboring communities, some medical marijuana growers worry about losing customers.

“As laws change, we know that the recreational market will take a lot of business away, and we’re worried about the stability of our business,” Peter Ingram, a medical marijuana cultivator, told the council this summer. “We want to be good neighbors,” he said. 

Egan is waiting to hear from both sides, the community and the “existing, law-abiding businesses,” before weighing in himself. 

During the August meeting, councilors Tawni Whitney, Scott Gleeson and Eric Horne were against moving the discussion forward, according to the Forecaster.
“My fear is that if we open this box, it would be too messy,” Whitney said at the time. 

If the council decides to make a recommendation to move it forward, the ordinance will go before the planning board, which will have its own processes and hearings, so there will be multiple opportunities for people to speak up, Egan said. 

“In order to make a well-informed decision in Freeport, we would be well-served to take a lot of public input,” McBride said.


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