Town officials eye commercial marijuana codes

Boothbay Harbor Planning Board, selectmen brainstorm options
Posted:  Saturday, February 11, 2017 - 8:45am

Members of Boothbay Harbor’s planning and select boards met Feb. 8 to discuss how Maine’s legalization of recreational marijuana will affect Boothbay Harbor, and how best to proceed.

Several members of both boards had attended a Jan. 25 workshop hosted by the Lincoln County Regional Planning Commission. At that meeting, two attorneys, Ted Kelleher and Amy Tchao from Drummond Woodsum, a Portland-based law firm, presented a program called, “Weeding Through Marijuana Legalization: What It Means For Our Towns.” At the Feb. 8 meeting, Denise Griffin said she thought it would be useful for participants to process what they had learned at the January meeting. No decisions would be made that night, she said.

The town has time to ponder its options. Maine lawmakers set a year-long state moratorium on the commercial licensing of marijuana cultivation, testing, manufacturing facilities, and on retail shops and social clubs.

Most concerns voiced Feb. 8 focused on the shops and clubs aspect. “Boothbay Harbor doesn't have much available land for marijuana cultivation, testing, or manufacturing. Transportation isn't good and energy costs are high. But the retail shops and social clubs would have an impact on the town and its character,” said Planning Board member William Hamblen.

Some at the meeting suggested taking advantage of the protection that has been granted municipalities under the moratorium. When that ends, the town could pass its own moratorium for a few months longer; others in the group thought the town could come up with a plan in time for November elections. All agreed that public participation and education in the process is an absolute.

Town Manager Tom Woodin said he couldn’t imagine why they couldn’t hold a couple of public hearings between now and November, write up a warrant article or two, and have a vote before the state's moratorium expires.

Griffin said she had contacted about eight community members, and each one favored taking time with the process. But she was amenable to a November deadline, saying if it wasn't possible, a moratorium could still be an option. Griffin said she would like to have a Plan A and a Plan B at the ready.

Toward the end of the meeting, Code Enforcement Officer Geoff Smith suggested the Drummond Woodsum attorneys come to Boothbay Harbor to speak to the public. “They could get the same informational session and handouts and answer questions. We could get a good idea of which way the town wants to go,” he said. When the group agreed this would be a good idea, Smith agreed to contact the lawyers and set up a meeting. He will also contact local television station Channel 7 to record the workshop.