Woolwich residents approved four recreational marijuana ordinances Saturday. Kathleen O’Brien / Times Record

WOOLWICH — Woolwich residents voted to join nearby Bath, Brunswick and Bowdoinham in allowing recreational marijuana retail, manufacturing, testing and cultivation facilities during Saturday’s annual town meeting.

During the outdoor meeting, 136 residents voted to allow recreational marijuana retail stores, with 51 people voting against it. The recreational marijuana manufacturing facilities ordinance passed by a 140-46 vote and the recreational marijuana testing facilities ordinance passed 139-49. The recreational marijuana manufacturing establishment ordinance passed 135-58.

Despite all four ordinances passing with a large majority, some residents opposed opening the town up to potential recreational  marijuana businesses over concerns about increased traffic, crime rate and taxes.

“We already know that a medicinal marijuana shop in Woolwich has been broken into twice, so the expectation of increased crime in real, not some remote possibility,” said resident Hope Lavender. “We don’t need to introduce nonessential businesses to our quiet, peaceful town that will increase crime.”

Cynthia Rugg said she’s worried recreational marijuana stores could create more traffic along Route 1 and cause accidents. Rugg also said anyone who uses recreational marijuana then drives under the influence would endanger others on the road, though some residents countered that argument.

“We’re allowing companies that sell alcohol [on Route 1],” said Sherri Harvey. “Someone can drink and drive and have just as much inability to drive as they do with marijuana.”

Bill Longley, a member of the marijuana ordinance drafting committee, said he was in favor of these ordinances because he has seen how marijuana can help people suffering with different conditions. He said he has family members who struggle with opioid addiction and marijuana helped them overcome their addiction.

Sayra Small, co-owner of Farley’s Cannabis Farm in Woolwich, said she has been petitioning the town to allow recreational marijuana sales for the past three years.

Small, who owns one medical marijuana storefront on Route 1, said she’s working toward opening more locations now that the town will be allowing recreational sales.

“I’m a single mom creating jobs for people in the middle of a pandemic with my business,” said Small. “If I sold mugs in a nice store I’d be celebrated, but I’m villainized because I work with cannabis.”

According to the ordinances, recreational marijuana retail stores can only open on Route 1 between the Taste of Maine restaurant and the Sagadahoc Bridge that connects Woolwich and Bath. The ordinance also sets a three-store limit in town.

Recreational marijuana manufacturing, cultivation and testing facilities can only open in rural general purpose areas, which cover most of the town, according to Gregg Buczkowski, Woolwich planning board chair. A full zoning map is available on the town website.

Longley said he suspects the town’s two medical marijuana stores will apply for an additional license to sell recreational marijuana. He also said he doesn’t expect marijuana testing facilities will open in Woolwich because they’re expensive to operate.

Longley said stores are a long way from opening to the public in Woolwich.

Recreational marijuana retail stories must first get a conditional license from the state. From there, applicants must get local approval before they can circle back for an active license from the state.

Longley said he suspects the two medical marijuana stores will apply for an additional license to sell recreational marijuana too.

After Mainers voted to legalize recreational marijuana in 2016, the state required each municipality to draft and approve their own regulations for recreational marijuana use and business.

It will still be another two months before Maine will officially open its recreational marijuana market to public sales, the Portland Press Herald reported last week. The Maine Office of Marijuana Policy will announce its first round of fully licensed testing labs, cultivation facilities, manufacturing plants and retail stores on Sept. 8. Those businesses will be allowed to open Oct. 9.

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