FREEPORT — The Town Council on Tuesday decided to take more time and allow more discussion about loosening restrictions on marijuana cultivation.

The only growing now allowed in town is for medical use. But growers would like to see the town allow the growth of recreational or “adult-use” marijuana for sale outside of Freeport.

Councilors were expected to vote on whether to send the question to the Ordinance Committee and Planning Board; instead, they decided to schedule a special meeting dedicated to the topic in the fall, when more residents are likely to be able to attend.

In other business, the council appointed Lindsey Furtney to the Regional School Unit 5 Board of Directors, temporarily filling a vacancy that was left by the resignation of John Morang. Furtney, a 12-year resident of Freeport, was the only applicant for the position and will serve until the Nov. 6 municipal election.

Furtney did not attend the meeting. According to the town clerk’s office, she has not taken out nomination papers for the permanent seat.

Town Manager Peter Joseph said the marijuana moratorium has been in place since 2016 as a way to give the council and Planning Board time to address and propose changes and adjust more gradually to Maine’s legalized marijuana landscape.

In 2017, the town banned all retail marijuana establishments and social clubs and prohibited five uses of retail marijuana: stores, cultivation, facilities, product manufacturing facilities, testing facilities and social clubs.

“This is a timely discussion,” Councilor Douglas Reighley said. “I would personally favor moving this in the direction of the boards involved.”

Caregivers at the meeting said changing the ordinance is necessary in order to keep business alive, since many facilities around the state are shifting toward adult-use. They said the experience in other states is that medical programs disappear as adult use becomes legal and acceptable.

“We want to be good neighbors,” Peter Ingram, a medical marijuana cultivator in Freeport, told councilors. “We’ve done great and we’ve had a good experience working with the town. As laws change, we know that the recreational market will take a lot of business away, and we’re worried about the stability of our business.”

Ingram suggested that if the town loosened its ordinances, it could limit the number of operators and retail licenses, much like the city of Portland.

“This is a way for Freeport to make a little money on this,” Ingram said. “And this can be limited to what the town likes.”

Keith McBride, executive director of the Freeport Economic Development Corp., said his office is charged with “diversifying local economy,” and shared his support for continuing the discussion.

“When recreational use came to vote, the town voted heavily in favor,” he said. “That’s a pretty good thermometer about how the community feels about adult use. Not allowing the conversation to go ahead is a disservice to property owners and landowners that could fill their space. We need to see what works for Freeport and (consider) all opportunities that we’re passing up.”

Other members of the community spoke against allowing adult use in town, in part because they fear marijuana will become too accessible for children.

“People in Freeport voted for the referendum to be able to enjoy a joint or bong on their property and not have the cops come over,” Joyce Vellieux said. “We do not need that industry in this town.”

Before the decision to have another meeting with the public was made, several councilors, including Tawni Whitney, Scott Gleeson and Eric Horne, were not in favor of moving the discussion to other boards.

“My fear is that if we open this box, it would be too messy,” Whitney said. “That level of intoxication is not what is used to be. I am concerned with how easy (marijuana) is to get.”

But after some discussion, Vellieux suggested that the town consider a well-advertised, special meeting in the fall to allow more constituents to join the discussion.

Whitney agreed and said “I don’t want my voice to be stronger than the community.”

Councilors voted unanimously for the special meeting, but did not set a date and time.

 


Comments are not available on this story.