TOPSHAM

Few attended a special town meeting Wednesday in Topsham, where the majority of discussion centered around the proposed re-adoption of a six-month moratorium on retail marijuana stores, establishments and social clubs.

Voters agreed to extend the moratorium to the final six months allowed, temporarily prohibiting the businesses while the town works to develop regulations to govern their use in Topsham.

Town Manager Rich Roedner said this warrant article drew the most questions Wednesday evening, noting that some of the discussion was centered around philosophical arguments about moratoriums. Officials were asked why the town is instituting a moratorium for retail marijuana establishments when they’ve been legalized by a citizen initiative passed by Mainers in November 2016.

Asked why the town hasn’t done anything yet on adopting local rules, Roedner said the town has been waiting to see what rules the state would adopt so its local ordinance would comply with those regulations.

In early November, Gov. Paul Le- Page vetoed a bill to regulate and tax retail marijuana businesses. Roedner said the bill would have prohibited retail marijuana uses everywhere and towns would have had to opt-in for them to be allowed. Right now, they are allowed everywhere.

“We need to be prepared if they can go everywhere,” Roedner said.

According to Roedner, Selectmen Chairman David Douglass said he’d be in favor of adopting an ordinance that prohibits retail marijuana establishments, stores and social clubs, until the state does have this framework in place. The town could then amend the ordinance.

Regardless of whether the state has adopted rules, some residents also pushed for the town to develop strong, clear regulations for governing retail marijuana businesses, Roedner said.

Residents also approved an emergency moratorium to temporarily prohibit medical marijuana storefronts in town for six months. Roedner said the town does not have any zoning code yet to address the storefronts, “so it is an opportunity to draft a code to figure out where we want them to go and what kind of regulations … we want to put on them.”

Town officials hope to put proposed rules before voters at the May town meeting to address long-term concerns, he said.

The town has a medical marijuana storefront that recently opened. It sells glass, including pipes and other paraphernalia, but also serves as a place for caregivers to see clients. It raised awareness for town officials that such a use could go into a retail space as the town’s land use codes stand now, Roedner said.

Roedner said the special meeting lasted approximately 45 minutes and drew 21 registered voters.

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