A stray comma on the warrant of the Manchester Town Meeting last month prompted an upcoming special town meeting to remove it, out of concern the misplaced punctuation could make the town’s new recreational marijuana business setback requirements apply to every business in town.

Residents at the June 15 Town Meeting approved new zoning rules to regulate where recreational marijuana businesses may locate in town.

The new rules included setback requirements meant to apply to recreational marijuana businesses.

However, a heading for a chart to be added to the town’s land use ordinance stated, “Setbacks for Recreational Marijuana, Businesses, Distribution & Cultivation.” That could potentially be read by some to mean the new setback requirements – because of the comma between “Recreational Marijuana” and “Businesses” – apply to all businesses, officials said.

So officials plan to ask residents at a special town meeting Aug. 8 to kick the comma out of the ordinance, leaving the heading to read, instead, “Setbacks for Recreational Marijuana Businesses, Distribution & Cultivation.”

“It looks to be a silly little problem, but it really changes the substance” of what voters approved at Town Meeting, said Town Manager E. Patrick Gilbert. “So we wanted to get rid of that comma.”

The setback rules ban recreational marijuana businesses from being located within 1,000 feet of a school, 750 feet of a church, and 1,000 feet from parks and playgrounds.

Gilbert said Selectman Robert Gasper caught the wayward comma and selectmen agreed Tuesday that a special town meeting should be held to remove it.

The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Aug. 8 at the Manchester Town Office.

With the special meeting coming up anyway, selectmen placed another tweak to town zoning rules regulating marijuana on the special town meeting warrant.

The other proposal would impose new setback requirements on medical marijuana caregivers, banning them from locating within 500 feet of a school, as measured from property line to property line.

Gilbert said the state Legislature passed a bill, after the Town Meeting in June already had taken place, giving municipalities the right to establish minimum setback requirements for medical marijuana caregivers located near schools.

The emergency state legislation was introduced by Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, after Richmond town officials and residents expressed concerns the town could not deny an application for a proposed caregiver marijuana growing facility that is less than 300 feet from Richmond Middle/High School.

Gilbert said selectmen in Manchester expressed interest, with passage of the new state law, in adopting setback requirements for medical marijuana caregivers in Manchester. So a question asking whether residents wish to adopt such a rule was added to the special town meeting warrant.

Gilbert said the cost of holding a special town meeting is small, though he didn’t have a dollar estimate.

Maine voters, in a statewide referendum question approved in November 2016, legalized recreational marijuana. Medical marijuana was already legal in Maine.

Keith Edwards can be contacted at 621-5647 or at:

[email protected]