November 18, 2016

Windham Town Council plans marijuana moratorium - By Stephen Signor

On Election Day Windham voters spoke loudly on question one. Now that the results have been tallied, the wheels to insure that the processes of making this happen smoothly as possible are in motion. This past Tuesday Council members discussed the next steps going forward with the Marijuana Legalization Act. That step is establishing an ordinance.

Town Manager Tony Plante presented council members with an updated draft drawn up by the town’s attorney. “Our attorney has been working also on Augusta and Bangor and is making the ordinance’s the same for all three,” he summarized. 

Voters approved the Marijuana Legalization Act at the last election. But this, if adopted by the council, would impose a moratorium effective November 8th to give the town time to deal with issues related to the location of retail marijuana establishments as written into the Marijuana Legalization Act. As the town manager continued to explain, “When the law goes into effect in January 2017 it will be legal to possess recreational marijuana. What this ordinance will do is deal with the location and operation of disbursement establishments and nothing else.”

To elaborate Plante said, “This isn’t saying that they (establishments) can or cannot be located in Windham, or under what conditions. It’s simply saying that we need some time to sort through what health and public safety issues may be involved; similar to what Windham went through with the legalization of medical marijuana a number of years ago.”

 “The town does have some provisions in its land use ordinance that does deal with the location of dispensaries. We don’t have anything in our ordinance right now that deals with the types of establishments envisioned by the Marijuana Legalization Act. So again, this would give the council and the town time to work on some regulations if the decision were to allow for the locations of these facilities in town,” continued Plante.

What happens next could happen soon. The way it works is the council can enact this as an emergency, so it could be voted on it next Tuesday night. By charter an emergency ordinance only remains in place for 60 days. “There’s no time to post a public hearing notice as required by the ordinance. We have to have at least seven days and so there isn’t time between now and next Tuesday,” added Plante.

A tentative vote for the moratorium is scheduled for November 22nd and then a public hearing and another vote on December 13th. If enacted, it would be in place for 180 days or until ordinance language is put into place. Council members unanimously agreed to have this item on the agenda for November 22nd meeting at the Windham Town Hall at 7 p.m.

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