2017-11-01 / Front Page

Valley Planning Board holds marijuana workshop

By Dee Menear Irregular Staff Writer

CARRABASSETT VALLEY — A Planning Board workshop regarding the potential impact of Marijuana Legislation was held Thursday, Oct. 26. The meeting was well attended, not only by Carrabassett Valley officials and residents, but also those from the surrounding towns of Eustis and Coplin Plantation.

John Maloney, a Land Use Planner formerly contracted with Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments presented information which focused mostly on land use issues municipalities could potentially consider when welcoming marijuana-based businesses.

Chairman James McCormick explained the workshop was being held simply to present information. “Obviously, there will be more meetings on the subject,” he stated.

Maloney explained with the implementation of medical marijuana laws in 2009, caregivers were able to have up to six mature plants per person with up to six clients. “The law was quiet about land use regulations. The only stipulation was if you were going to grow it outside, you needed a six-foot-high fence,” he explained.

He went on to say information about how many caregivers there are in the state is not clear due to confidentiality regulations. “The only ones who need to know about who caregivers are is DHHS and Central Maine Power,” he explained.

The reason for CMP notification was due to higher energy output. “There have been fires as a result of people’s homes not being wired for the amount of juice required,” he noted.

Other than a law that gives municipalities the ability to establish zoning ordinances that could restrict marijuana caregiver facilities within 500 feet of a school, there is not a lot of regulation of caregivers.

What wasn't expected was for caregivers to partner together and purchase warehouses for medical marijuana growing facilities. "In my town of Turner, we recently discovered there were 12 such facilities and they did not require permits," Maloney stated. One of the issues with such an operation continues to be safety and odor, stated Maloney.

In November 2016, Maine voters passed Question 2 which legalized recreational use of marijuana by adults. It also opened the door for a state-licensed and regulated commercial system for the cultivation and sale of marijuana. A statewide moratorium went into effect Jan. 27, which temporarily prohibited the cultivation, manufacturing and sale of marijuana while legislatures worked out details of implementing the law.

Monday, Oct. 23, the Maine House and Senate passed a bill that regulated marijuana production and sales facilities. The amended marijuana legalization changes the way a municipality addresses marijuana establishments. The original act said establishments would be allowed unless a municipality prohibited it. Under the amendment, if a community wants to allow marijuana establishments, voters have to approve it. "That's a big change. Now they don't have to do anything if they don't want it," Maloney stated.

Maloney also explained the amendment gives municipalities home rule authority, allowing ordinances to define land use regulation in regards to marijuana establishments. Other than land use considerations, officials will need to address issues such security, storage and disposal of waste material, and safety concerns. Maloney explained development of an Emergency Plan by local fire departments should also be addressed.

Town Manager Dave Cota stated he was pleased the amendment included the opt-in clause. "It gives municipalities more leverage," he stated. He said when the time came, writing an ordinance would be the easy part of the process. Cota also stressed implementation would require voter approval.

Governor Paul LePage has 10 days to veto the law passed last Monday. Although it was expected he would do so, he had not as of Tuesday morning, Oct. 31.

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