Fort Fairfield says no to marijuana shops in town

2 weeks ago

FORT FAIRFIELD, Maine — After months of discussion, Fort Fairfield leaders resolved Wednesday to keep retail marijuana out of town.

The town council voted 4 to 1 Wednesday against an ordinance to allow medical and adult-use marijuana businesses to set up shop.

Fort Fairfield’s decision follows a trend set by most towns in conservative-leaning Aroostook County. Sales in Maine have boomed since voters approved recreational marijuana in 2016, netting more than $460 million in 2022, but few northern Maine towns allow marijuana shops. 

Presque Isle is the hub, with eight cannabis businesses including medical, recreational and cultivators. Fort Kent, Houlton and Grand Isle also have growers and retailers.

Fort Fairfield councilors have discussed an ordinance for several months, and worked with Presque Isle this summer on a draft. 

About 10 residents attended a public hearing in October, which lasted 13 minutes. No one spoke in favor of the ordinance, and five spoke against it, most saying retail marijuana in town would create a negative image. 

The council discussed the ordinance further Wednesday night. 

“I’ve talked to elderly people who have to travel to obtain medical marijuana. We held a public hearing and nobody attended,” Councilor Pat Canavan said. “I just think we need to be open to business.”

Councilor Bob Kilcollins said he has heard a lot of input from townspeople, who are divided about half and half on the issue. He suggested the town compromise and create an ordinance allowing marijuana shops, but not on Main Street and not near schools.

Councilor Kevin Pelletier referenced Police Chief Matthew Cummings’ report earlier in the meeting about increased drug-related incidents, and wondered what message Fort Fairfield would send to its youth if it allowed marijuana sales.

“You’re not going to make everyone happy. The majority of people are against it, and the majority of people elected us,” he said.

The council voted against the ordinance, with Canavan voting yes and the others voting no.

Later in the meeting, councilors suggested an ordinance to oppose marijuana businesses in town. 

A public hearing will be scheduled to allow public input on that proposal, said Town Manager Tim Goff.

In other business, the Fort Fairfield Fire Department has received donations to buy 110 smoke detectors for residents, a drive spurred by the recent fire that killed three members of the Elmer family. Their home had no working smoke detectors.

“I’m very proud of this town for getting behind this family and I’m proud of the fire department for taking this step,” Goff said.

The town’s holiday light parade is planned for Saturday, Dec. 9, going down Main Street and ending at the Community Center, where there will be refreshments, music and photos with Santa, he said. 

The town will again collaborate with the Quality of Place Committee on the home holiday decorating contest.

Kevin Hunter, the patrol agent in charge of Fort Fairfield’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection station, presented an award to Cummings to recognize the collaboration between the agency and the police department.

“I have not seen or experienced a cooperation between two agencies [like] I have here with your chief,” Hunter said.