A proposal to prohibit retail marijuana businesses in Old Orchard Beach drew just four people to a local hearing Tuesday, but they had strong opinions.

Those speakers, and two that submitted written comments, were split over whether to enact an outright ban on adult-use marijuana shops, testing labs, manufacturing or grow houses or whether a moratorium would suffice. Town Manager Larry Mead said towns like Old Orchard Beach are still waiting for the Legislature to set up the rules of the recreational market before it decides if it wants to adopt its own rules to allow such businesses in town.

Although lawmakers passed a bill that would have provided regulatory oversight for a legal adult-use marijuana market in Maine, it was scuttled by Gov. Paul LePage’s veto. The Legislature is expected to take up the matter again when it reconvenes in January.

A local prohibition ordinance could be repealed if the town decides it wants to write local rules to allow marijuana businesses.

Peter Maourmouras, a local tax accountant, said his business, The Tax Doctor, has 230 clients in the marijuana business, and they are eager to become full members of the “legitimate” business community. Maourmouras, who has been in business in Old Orchard Beach since 1990, said his cannabis clients have generated more than $1 million in sales tax revenue so far for the state of Maine.

“Does the town want to control marijuana use in the town, and does the town want to share in the revenue that is produced by the businesses?” Maourmouras said. “Who benefits from prohibition? Right now there is a black market … If Old Orchard thinks they will be able to prohibit the use of marijuana by prohibiting retail establishments in their town they are sadly mistaken. Prohibition is too drastic a step to take at this junction. A moratorium is a more moderate approach.”

But Jerome Begert, a former local charter, ballpark and finance commissioner, said Old Orchard Beach can’t afford to allow marijuana businesses in town under the rules being considered by the Legislature. Lawmakers are talking about giving towns some of the tax revenues generated by such businesses, but that won’t happen, said Begert, and even if it does, it won’t be enough to cover the costs.

“We will never get enough money from the state to pay for extra police officers, training for roadside tests for marijuana-intoxicated drivers,” Begert said. “We will need officers to make sure marijuana is not diverted to children, to make sure it’s not being sold by non-licensed people … to make sure marijuana businesses are operating up to code. There will be more unemployable people in town because they are too doped up to work so they will rely on our local welfare assistance.”

The Town Council is likely to consider the issue at its Jan. 2 meeting, Mead said.

Penelope Overton can be contacted at 791-6463 or at:

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