Cornish Board of Selectmen Chairman Dan Sherman, Town Meeting Moderator Richard Ruhlin and Diann Perkins stand behind the ballot box at Cornish Fire Station  Wednesday night, where voters acted in favor of  instituting a ban on retail marijuana. Perkins initiated a petition that brought the issue to a vote. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

Cornish Board of Selectmen Chairman Dan Sherman, Town Meeting Moderator Richard Ruhlin and Diann Perkins stand behind the ballot box at Cornish Fire Station Wednesday night, where voters acted in favor of instituting a ban on retail marijuana. Perkins initiated a petition that brought the issue to a vote. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

CORNISH — Voters agreed to prohibit retail marijuana in Cornish by a margin of more than 3 to 1 in a secret ballot Town Meeting vote on Wednesday night.

The vote as originally cast was 169-47,  announced Town Meeting Moderator Richard Ruhlin.

But before the votes were counted, Ruhlin said the vote would be modified, with 18 votes removed from the majority side, to account for registration slips inadvertently uncollected from some voters in return for a ballot as the vote commenced. In the end, the modified vote meant the count was 151 to prohibit retail marijuana in Cornish, with 47 votes against prohibition and one neutral ballot.

Immediately after the results were read, one man stepped forward to announce his intentions.

Ken Little asked selectmen to nullify the vote, “because of the irregularities, “he said.

“There will be a lawsuit filed,” Little promised.

The result of the vote has prompted Trinity Madison, who has advertised a three-week event called The Laughing Grass Inn at the Cornish Inn in the downtown district, to say the event will go on, but will be the only one she will hold in Cornish. The special event offers complimentary marijuana edibles and smokeables to guests who rent a room.

Madison, who lives in Oxford County, didn’t attend the meeting, but posted a message on The Laughing Grass Inn Facebook page early Thursday.

“I’m sorry to say the prohibition vote passed in Cornish,” Madison wrote. “This (upcoming event ) will be our only event in this town. We’re still moving forward, it’s going to be a great three weeks, and we will find a different venue for the future.”

Others expressed the hope a vote for prohibition might nix the three-week event, set to commence Aug. 15.

“I’m hoping this will stop the Laughing Grass Inn next week,” said resident Jan Goldsberry, in part.

There was debate both for and against the proposed prohibition.

Resident David Harry pointed out Cornish has about 10 businesses that sell alcohol and tobacco.

“I don’t believe a regulated marijuana business becomes a greater menace to our children than what we already have,” Harry said.

Another resident said Mainers had settled the moral question on marijuana at the voting booth in November, when voters statewide approved recreational marijuana.

“This is an economic question only,” the voter said. “It is a source of potential revenue for the town to minimize tax increases.”

Some felt differently.

“I am not saying it’s a terrible thing or a good thing,” said Valerie Egar. “We are walking in the dark right now,” she said, pointing out the state Legislature has not yet completed its review of the legislation.

After about 10 speakers, one voter moved the question, which resulted in the casting of ballots.

Earlier in the evening, selectmen and Ruhlin explained that according to a Maine Municipal Association attorney, a simple majority was required for either side to win, despite a recent 3-2 vote by the Planning Board against supporting the prohibition.

If the Planning Board had voted against supporting a proposed amendment for a land use ordinance that was initiated by the municipality, a two-thirds majority would have been needed for a win, Ruhlin explained. The ordinance before voters, however, was a citizen-initiated standalone ordinance, he and selectmen’s board chairman Dan Sherman said, hence the simple majority requirement..  

The special Town Meeting came as a result of a citizen petition initiated by resident Diann Perkins, who said she wanted the town to have some protection moving forward. In an interview last week, she said ordinances can always be amended or repealed.

The meeting, set to begin at 7 p.m., opened at about 7:40 p.m. because of the large number of voters checking in. In all, more than 225 people were on hand at the Cornish Fire Station, including a few observers.

Cornish is one of several Maine communities that have considered prohibition votes or moratoriums after voters approved recreational marijuana in November.

The state Legislature set its own moratorium on all aspects of the Maine Marijuana Legalization Act except for personal use provisions, while they ponder rules for the new law, set to roll out in February.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]


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