MADISON — Voters in Madison will have one eye on the ballot box in November and one eye on Gov. Paul LePage as the question of marijuana sales is addressed locally and statewide.

Polls will be open from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. Nov. 7 at the Madison Town Office to vote on this question: “Shall the town of Madison prohibit all types of retail marijuana establishments as defined by state law?”

The issue, Town Manager Tim Curtis says in a public service video produced by Somerset Community TV 11 as a preview of the election, is “What should the town of Madison do regarding retail and recreational marijuana?”

Curtis notes in the video that two Madison storefronts offer “marijuana-related” products for sale but do not sell pot and are not violating any laws. Recent changes in state law do not apply to medical marijuana, Curtis notes, and the drug is still illegal under federal law.

Maine voters legalized adult-use marijuana last fall. The Marijuana Legalization Act became law in January, but state lawmakers delayed implementation of everything but home-grown pot and limited possession to give lawmakers time to set up the rules for the new market. A statewide moratorium on retail marijuana businesses is in place until February 2018.

Curtis said by phone that the Nov. 7 vote is not about an ordinance, but is a way to “get a final direction” from residents on how next to proceed.

“Every vote we’ve taken, every survey that we’ve done, has been 50-50 right down the middle,” he said, adding that the Board of Selectmen is not taking a position on the question. Because the question is on the ballot, the final tally will be a binding vote.

“A ‘yes’ vote means you want to prohibit any retail sales,” Curtis said. “A ‘no’ vote means that you’re open to some sort of regulation. If the majority of voters vote ‘yes,’ then the town will move forward with whatever steps necessary to prohibit retail sales. If it votes ‘no,’ then the town will move forward with whatever steps necessary to regulate some sort of retail marijuana.”

Residents have said during public hearings that allowing marijuana sales in town would be a boon to the local economy, damaged by the recent closing of a paper mill and the loss of jobs.

LePage has until Nov. 3 to decide whether to sign a marijuana regulation bill adopted by state legislators Oct. 16. It was passed in both houses but fell short of the two-thirds majority required to override a gubernatorial veto. The legislation sets a 20 percent retail and excise tax, eliminates the grow cap and sets a two-year residency requirement for licenses, among other rules.

People on both sides of the marijuana debate are waiting to see whether LePage will sign the bill, veto it or let it become law without his signature.

Under part of the Marijuana Legalization Act approved by voters last fall, people still can grow up to six marijuana plants on their property and possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana for personal use.

Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: Doug_Harlow

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