Maggie Terry, chairwoman of the marijuana task force, says she is “floored” by the Windham Town Council’s actions. Jane Vaughan / Lakes Region Weekly

WINDHAM —The town’s marijuana task force will continue its work, despite rumors that the Town Council had disbanded the group.

Approximately 30 people packed a council meeting Tuesday night for a discussion about the future of the Retail Adult-Use and Medical Marijuana Establishments Task Force, which was charged with reviewing state laws and bringing recommendations to the council.

Task force Chairwoman Maggie Terry said in an interview that when she showed up for the task force’s meeting on July 1, she was told it had been disbanded by the Town Council. Interim Town Manager Don Gerrish said in an interview that the Task Force had not been disbanded.

The confusion stemmed from a June 25 council meeting, where councilors completed a marijuana flow chart exercise with attorney Kristin Collins of law firm Preti Flaherty, which represents the town. They discussed their opinions on various marijuana enterprises, from dispensaries to testing facilities. Councilors seemed open to allowing all in town except for adult-use marijuana retailers. Collins was charged with writing ordinance language and bringing it to the council, hopefully within a month.

In an interview, Gerrish said, “it was discussed that when we had the drafts” of the ordinances, they would be sent to the task force “to look at and get their input.”

My takeaway (from that meeting),” he said, “was that the committee would be coming together when there would be information for them to come together to review.” 

At the July 9 meeting, Gerrish added that it was his decision not to schedule the Task Force meeting, saying, “I made an assumption, and I shouldn’t have.”

Terry spoke first during the public comment period, saying that the “disdain” she has experienced from the council was “appalling” and she was “floored, shocked and angry” by the council’s treatment of the task force.

Maine voters opted to legalize recreational marijuana possession in 2016, as did the voters of Windham, and Terry felt that “the will of the voters is being ignored.”

Joanne Mattiace, a licensed attorney who also co-owns Legal Leaf with Terry, said she was concerned about a possible conflict of interest given that Preti Flaherty also represents Wellness Connection, a medical marijuana dispensary.

Approximately 30 people attended Tuesday’s Town Council meeting. Jane Vaughan / Lakes Region Weekly

Gerrish said he scheduled a meeting with Preti Flaherty on Wednesday to discuss the issue.

Task force Vice Chairman Joel Pepin and member David Whitten along with residents Jonathan Priest and Larry Eliason also spoke during the public comment period, although Priest was cut off because the council felt he was not discussing the topic at hand, the task force’s future.

Pepin said the situation was “really frustrating.”

“For (ordinance drafts) to be written without the committee’s approval would be completely unfair to all the work that all of us have put in,” he said. 

During council comment, Councilor Donna Chapman said the residents had received “misconceptions and half truths.” The council knew nothing about the task force meeting, she said, yet “you all blamed all of us, we’re horrible people that sit up here.”

She added that she was not against the task force, but “I personally don’t like to be bullied, browbeat to try to pass something.”

Councilor Jarrod Maxfield thought that the task force should continue and that the question of whether the town should allow adult-use marijuana retailers should be put on the November ballot, which Councilor Bob Muir agreed with. 

Councilor Tim Nangle said he felt “no need to disband the committee,” and Council Chairman Clayton Haskell agreed. Meanwhile, Councilor Dave Nadeau, the task force’s council liaison, said he didn’t “see any need for” the task force.

Council Vice Chairwoman Rebecca Cummings said that while she respected the fact that marijuana has been legalized, “Please understand that we also represent that other half (of voters, who voted against it) and right now we are trying to balance what the majority passed and the rights and concerns of those that are against it.”

She said she was proud of the work that the council completed June 25. “I feel like for once the council took a really tough topic where tempers could have flared and we could have not gotten the task done, but we got it done. … People are the most angered over the one piece of hard work we’ve actually got through,” she said.  

Meanwhile, Gov. Janet Mills recently signed a bill that set up a legal framework for adult-use marijuana businesses. The state plans to start accepting applications for those business licenses by the end of this year.

Also Tuesday night, the council approved an agreement with ReVision Energy for the installation of a solar energy generation project and authorized Gerrish to negotiate and sign a purchase and sale agreement for a 14-acre parcel in North Windham for a proposed wastewater management site.

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