The Saco City Council on Monday will join a handful of communities considering moratoriums on recreational marijuana businesses.

But the city administrator is urging councilors not to make any decision until after the outcome of Tuesday’s vote because, even if recreational marijuana becomes legal, those associated businesses wouldn’t be able to open immediately.

Several Maine communities – including Westbrook, Gray, Brewer and Bangor – have enacted or are considering moratoriums in case voters choose to legalize marijuana. Officials in those communities say a moratorium will give them time to develop zoning for those types of businesses or ban them altogether. The Westbrook City Council is due to take a second and final vote Monday on a 180-day moratorium on recreational marijuana facilities, including social clubs, growing operations and retail stores.

Question 1 asks voters if they want to legalize marijuana for adults 21 and over. If approved, adults would be able to possess up to 2½ ounces, grow their own plants and buy marijuana from licensed retail stores. The initiative also would allow marijuana social clubs and place a 10 percent sales tax on marijuana. Marijuana use would be prohibited in public, with violations punishable by a $100 fine.

The initiative would allow municipalities to establish regulations on the location of growing operations, social clubs and other retail establishments where marijuana could be sold. They could also pass outright bans on those types of businesses, although private marijuana use and possession would still be legal.

Kevin Sutherland, Saco’s city administrator, said Mayor Ron Michaud asked the city administration to weigh in on whether Saco should follow other communities in considering a moratorium. The council will discuss the issue at a workshop Monday evening but is not scheduled to vote on a moratorium.


“I’ve advised them to wait until after the vote,” Sutherland said. “It doesn’t really make sense to get into it until after it’s voted on.”

Sutherland said his research into the issue shows that, if Question 1 is approved, it could be up to a year before the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry develops the rules and a process for applying for permits and licenses to grown and sell marijuana. If Question 1 is approved, councilors could use the local results to inform them about how the community feels about marijuana, he said.

“If Saco residents glowingly approve this, I would suggest that they don’t ban (marijuana businesses) if that’s what the community wants,” Sutherland said. “If the community doesn’t want it, maybe we should ban it.”

The Westbrook City Council first took up the issue last month, and a majority of councilors expressed interest in using the moratorium period to approve a ban on recreational marijuana stores, growing operations and social clubs.

“I do not want to live in a city where my children can freely smoke marijuana, and I would absolutely support banning it,” Westbrook City Councilor Anna Turcotte said during an Oct. 17 workshop.

A Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram poll of 761 likely voters conducted last month by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center showed 50 percent of respondents favor legalizing marijuana while 41 percent are opposed. Nine percent of respondents were undecided.


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