AUGUSTA, Maine — At least four municipalities passed marijuana-related questions across Maine on Tuesday and three others were rejected, proving that municipalities are still wary of weighing in on the issue before the state opens a new recreational market next year.
The measures that passed ran the gamut from setting up ground rules for potential businesses to allowing them outright. State law requires municipalities to opt-in to allowing nonmedical marijuana businesses to operate, but towns have been concerned about regulatory and enforcement issues that go along with opting in.
The most comprehensive vote occurred in the Kennebec County town of China, whose voters allowed for medical and recreational stores, medical testing and manufacturing facilities in a series of four questions. Town Manager Dennis Heath said the questions came up after the town’s planning board received an application for a cultivation facility this summer.
Heath said he recommended the select board not “kick the can down the road” on whether they want marijuana facilities, noting plans to allow for recreational sales by early next year. He said the town will probably vote on an ordinance codifying’s Tuesday’s vote next March.
Eliot overwhelmingly approved a licensing procedure for recreational establishments, whereas Camden created a procedure to obtain licenses for recreational cultivation businesses. York amended its medical marijuana zoning ordinances to match definitions and standards in the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act.
Camden select board chair Robert Falciani said the town currently allows cultivation facilities within its borders, but the vote means the town will not have to create new regulating rules if it decides to change that down the road. He said the fact that Tuesday’s measure passed with 76 percent of the vote shows the town is “strongly leaning” toward approving more marijuana businesses — and expects to take up the issue of allowing retail next year.
Other towns are still wary. A citizen’s initiative to allow recreational marijuana stores in Bridgton failed even though the town voted in favor of legalization in 2016. Measures that would have established guidelines for regulating medical and recreational use in Holden and Rangeley, the latter of which rejected another set of rules in June.
Bridgton Town Manager Bob Peabody declined to say why he thought the measure failed but said the town’s planning board has made medical and recreational guidelines a “priority.” He said the board has been waiting for the state to “get its act together” before drafting any proposals.
As of June, only 14 cities and towns had chosen to opt into the recreational market in some way, according to the Maine Municipal Association. Eric Conrad, a spokesman for the association, said making decisions about marijuana is one of the “largest issues” facing municipalities right now.
The state is expected to adopt regulations and accept applications by the end of 2019, according to the Associated Press, three years after voters approved legalization.