Houlton council to consider renewal of medical marijuana moratorium
HOULTON, Maine —Town Councilors are expected to decide at their next meeting whether to renew the municipality’s medical marijuana moratorium.
Town Manager Marian Anderson asked councilors during the May 13 meeting if they wanted to consider repealing or extending the moratorium, or whether they wanted to wait to see if lawmakers in Augusta further clarified the state law before deciding.
The state Legislature last session enacted amendments to Maine’s medical marijuana law that, among other things, removed the cap on how much cannabis could be sold in medical marijuana dispensaries. It also allowed registered marijuana caregivers to open up storefronts to serve their patients enrolled in the state-approved medical marijuana program.
The law also specifically gives municipalities the right to regulate such marijuana facilities. But Houlton’s existing ordinances do not provide an adequate mechanism to regulate and control their location and operation.
Houlton councilors voted on Dec. 26, 2018, to establish a 180-day moratorium on medical marijuana retail stores, dispensaries, and testing and manufacturing facilities to give the town time to address the changes in the state law.
According to the Maine Marijuana Legalization Act passed in 2018, municipalities must “opt in” to allow adult marijuana establishments within their borders.
The law defines a marijuana establishment as a cultivation facility, products manufacturing facility, testing facility or store.
Residents of Houlton already voted in November 2017 to prohibit the sale and growth of recreational marijuana in town, but that vote does not affect medical marijuana growers or dispensaries.
Town councilors opted last month not to place a referendum question before voters to decide whether to allow medical marijuana retail stores or manufacturing facilities to operate in the community.
Councilors have had several questions about the “opt-in/opt-out” section of the law, so they decided they needed to gather more information about the issue. Councilors met with the planning board on May 6 to determine whether actions or revisions are needed to the current medical marijuana ordinance to keep pace with new state regulations, but took no action at the meeting.
Councilor Terry “Joe” McKenna noted that the council had until June to vote on the moratorium issue. He also said he thought the council would want to renew it.
Councilor Chris Robinson said that the council should renew the moratorium.
Chairwoman Jane Torres said that she felt renewal was the consensus of the group.
Anderson indicated that she would act on their suggestions to bring a moratorium renewal proposal before the council.
The Maine Office of Marijuana Policy last month posted draft rules for the state’s coming regulated cannabis market. The 74-page draft rules include sections on licensing, general compliance, general tracking requirements, advertising, product safety, waste management, packaging and labeling, enforcement and fees. The public can give feedback via the office’s website until Sunday, June 2.