ME: Retail Marijuana Ban Headed To Kennebunk Voters

Photo Credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez

An ordinance to ban all retail marijuana sales and operations in town will go to Kennebunk voters in June following approval from both the Planning Board and Board of Selectmen this week.

The boards held a joint public hearing Monday during which the Planning Board voted to send the proposed zoning ordinance amendment on to the Board of Selectmen, who took up the issue Tuesday during a regularly scheduled meeting.

If passed by voters in June, the ordinance will ban all retail marijuana social clubs and retail marijuana establishments in town. Many Maine towns have already adopted similar ordinances. Wells voted last June to ban retail marijuana, and Kennebunkport followed suit in November.

The town’s temporary moratorium ordinance on retail pot, first enacted last February by the Board of Selectmen, expires on April 4, 2018.

While the moratorium could be extended while the town waits to hear how state lawmakers are going to sort out the details of legalized recreational marijuana, the board supported passing the ordinance on to voters in June.

“With the missing ingredients from the state, our conclusion is we are recommending a no — we don’t want it in the town,” Board of Selectmen Chairman Dick Morin said.

Personal recreational marijuana became legal in Maine on Jan. 30 last year, allowing people 21 years and older to use marijuana on private property, and to grow six mature plants and possess 2.5 ounces of processed marijuana. The proposed ordinance does not apply to that portion of the state law.

Maine lawmakers on Tuesday considered a proposal to extend a statewide ban on retail sales of marijuana until May 1 to give the state more time to craft rules around the voter-approved law legalizing recreational marijuana. Recreational marijuana use became legal for adults last year, but there’s no way to legally buy it because Republican Gov. Paul LePage vetoed a bill created by a bipartisan task force.

LePage has cited numerous reasons he opposes legalized recreational marijuana, one of which is the fact that it would put the state out of compliance with federal law.

Maine lawmakers are trying to craft laws about legal pot sales following Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ announcement that he will allow federal prosecutors to decide what to do when state rules conflict with federal ones.

Members of both boards expressed frustration with the lack of clarity around the law at the state level.

Planning Board Chair Chris MacClinchy noted that even nationally, legalized marijuana is in the early days.

“These are early days, it’s still in the experimental times. We looked at as much information as we could. The fact that the state hasn’t produced their own regulations moving forward made it so that we felt we couldn’t go forward to allow portions of this in town, without the state figuring it out. That’s where we are coming from.”

Kennebunk resident Lionel Menard thanked both boards for the work done on the proposed ordinance and encouraged the selectmen to send it to voters so they could decide.

Resident John Costin, who is a member of the town’s Budget Board, does not support sending the ordinance to voters, saying retail pot could be a revenue source for the town.

Costin said he had heard estimates of retail marijuana being worth $200 million to the state, with a town likely to receive around 5 percent of that.

“Five percent is one million a year. To say no amount of money is worth it? I think that’s shortsighted. Prohibiting it isn’t going to stop it. A million dollars is a lot of money. Every year we talk about whether we can afford a piece of firefighting equipment or if we can afford to take care of people through public assistance programs. It could be as much as a million a year, I’m surprised that there’s been no consideration of that number,” Costin said.

Selectman Ed Karytko, known for his conservative fiscal views, said he’s not buying it.

“There’s nothing positive about this whole situation. I’ve done a lot of research. Even the revenue side, there is nothing positive. There’s a cost to it, and we don’t know what that will be, but it could be millions” Karytko said.

“It’s not a question of morality it’s a question of community standards and putting it to a vote will determine those community standards,” Selectman Blake Baldwin said.

The proposed ordinance will go to voters on June 12. Townspeople will have a chance to weigh in on the ban during two public hearings this spring, slated for April 10 and May 21.