CHINA — Residents will decide at a special vote this year whether the town should enact a moratorium on recreational marijuana establishments.

The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously at a meeting Thursday morning to hold the vote, but a date has not yet been set.

A moratorium would temporarily prohibit people from starting recreational marijuana establishments, which could include retail stores, manufacturing facilities, cultivation facilities and social clubs, for up to 60 days and could be extended by the select board if necessary.

China is joining a number of other Maine towns that are placing moratoriums or even outright bans on recreational marijuana stores and social clubs. Recreational marijuana became legal in Maine after Question 1 on the Nov. 8 ballot passed by just over 4,000 votes and a recount requested by opponents was abandoned. The referendum allows adults 21 and older to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and grow their own plants, and it contains provisions for the establishment of retail stores and social clubs. The referendum question also includes a 10 percent sales tax on marijuana.

The proposed moratorium would not affect medical marijuana establishments. The China Planning Board recently voted to approve a conditional use permit for the town’s first medical marijuana business in a vacant commercial building on Route 3.

China decided to propose enacting a moratorium on recreational marijuana establishments in part because the majority of voters in the town were against the Question 1 referendum, 1,172 to 1,317.


“We’re going with what the majority of the people who voted felt,” Selectwoman Irene Belanger said. “They felt that they didn’t want that here in town.”

The select board plans to hold a special vote prior to the annual Town Meeting in March if possible, she said. No date will be set until the Maine Municipal Association has checked all of the requirements for the town, which includes a public hearing on the issue, but Belanger said they hope to hold the vote on the earliest possible date.

Belanger said she personally thinks that the moratorium proposal will pass.

“I think there is still an awful lot of concern out there,” she said.

The moratorium is necessary to ensure the safety of the town, especially the children, so that they can see what regulations the state comes up with and what regulations the town may want to impose, she said.


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