2017-08-18 / Front Page

Pot related sales banned in Cape

By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer

CAPE ELIZABETH – The response from residents as to how the town should, or shouldn’t regulate recreational marijuana businesses in town has been quiet, if not inexistent, but town councilors took a step on Monday by passing an ordinance to prohibit recreational marijuana cultivation, manufacturing, testing, retail sales and social clubs.

The ordinance will take effect Sept. 14. Since the current 180- day moratorium on the subject, which was adopted in March, sunsets Sept. 8, the council unanimously opted to extend the moratorium until the new ordinance goes live.

While she agreed with the prohibition in theory, Councilor Penny Jordan didn’t support the issue being dealt with through a stand-alone ordinance.

“I don’t want social clubs or the establishment of retail sales, but I truly believe people should be able to operate businesses that manufacture value-added products,” said Penny Jordan, the only councilor to vote down the measure.

“It was my recommendation for a standalone ordinance because it’s most easily amended or replaced,” Town Planner Maureen O’Meara said. “This is something the state is still drafting its own rules on. We don’t know how they will act.”

The ordinance, which was drafted by Town Attorney John Wall, states “no person or organization shall develop or operate a business in the Town of Cape Elizabeth that engages in wholesale sales of a recreational marijuana product.” Nothing in the ordinance, it goes on to say “is intended to prohibit any lawful use, possession or conduct pursuant to the Maine Medical Marijuana Act” or limit the personal use of recreational marijuana as defined by the Act to Legalize Marijuana, which Maine voters passed in November 2016.

During its months-long discussion on recreational marijuana, the ordinance committee determined there were no appropriate locations for retail shops or social clubs because those uses would likely have to be located in Town Center District, the town’s primary commercial zone, which includes the high school, middle school and elementary school, a church and abuts residential neighborhoods. Manufacturing and testing, the committee concluded, is considered industrial use. Cape Elizabeth has no zones in place solely for industrial use.

Marijuana cultivation was a big focus for the committee. During its discussion, committee members reviewed possibly imposing a minimum lot size for commercially cultivating recreational marijuana, the revenue stream as a result, as well as the potential illegal sale of personal marijuana plants and odor and security impacts to neighborhoods around the cultivation areas.

Councilor Kathy Ray, a member of the ordinance committee, said she decided to back the ordinance to curb odor concerns.

“The piece that was important was the smell. We talked a lot about that. Living in a community where there are a lot of tight neighborhoods and talking with the police chief, there were some complaints about smell,” Ray said.

How to regulate recreational marijuana in town is something the town council has been working on almost since that November vote when just more than 50 percent of voters in the state, including 51 percent of voters in Cape Elizabeth, approved the recreational use and growing of marijuana for those individuals at least 21 years old. While the law permits individuals from possessing up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, it does prohibits public use and limits growing of marijuana to six mature plants or 12 immature plants. The law also allows state-licensed marijuana retail shops and social clubs at which marijuana can be used.

The Cape Elizabeth Town Council, on Dec. 12, 2016, passed an emergency 90-day moratorium limiting retail shops and social clubs, a place where people can convene to smoke/use marijuana, through March 12, 2016. In mid-February, the council decided to extend that emergency moratorium another 180 days to Friday, Sept. 8.

On Monday, residents had a chance to weigh in on the topic at a public hearing before the town council, but no one came to the podium to speak.

Although they passed a prohibitive ordinance, council members agreed to possibly revisit the recreational marijuana ordinance after state regulations are established.

Councilor Caitlin Jordan said it is difficult to draft local regulations when the nuances of the state’s regulation are not yet known.

“We need to hold here and see what happens,” she said. “I am more than open to reexamining this when someone has a better idea (of how the state will respond).”

Many communities, Cape Elizabeth included, are waiting for the state to come back with its regulations. In January 2016, the Legislature passed the order “Act to Delay the Implementation of Certain Portions of the Marijuana Legalization Act” to give time for the Joint Select Committee on Marijuana Legalization Implementation to look into crafting regulations for the licensing of retail shops and social clubs. The recommendation is expected by February 2018, but could be longer.

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