MOUNT DESERT — Selectmen here directed Town Manager Durlin Lunt to work with the town attorney to explore the possible adoption of a moratorium on commercial marijuana establishments.
At the board’s regular meeting on Tuesday, officials discussed the passage of Referendum Question 1 last fall, which legalized individual possession of up to 2.5 ounces of pot and a limited number of plants for personal consumption. Marijuana cannot be consumed in public places.
The law, which goes into effect later this month, also would allow marijuana social clubs and retail sales of marijuana. State officials have nine months to come up with regulations for that aspect of the law.
Individual towns can block such uses, should they desire, or they can adapt local zoning ordinances to regulate and control them.
Towns needing time to work on regulations can adopt a 180-day moratorium, which can be extended for another 180 days.
Because of the legal timeline, a vote on banning marijuana or adopting controls cannot be included on the warrant for the annual town meeting in May.
On Tuesday, Police Chief Jim Willis said there was legislation being submitted at the state level to tighten up the referendum language and to delay implementation of the commercial provisions for a year. Police Lt. David Kearns said experts he consulted about legalization of marijuana agree that “nine months is way too quick.” Delays may make it harder to draft regulations later. “You may not have a chance to go back and regulate after the fact,” he warned selectmen.
He continued that because of the enormous amount of money to be made, powerful interests will be involved in setting up commercial growing operations, clubs and retail outlets. “It’s not the average guy down the street setting up shop and selling cannabis,” he said. “It’s big business.” He continued that the legalization of pot may even fuel a wave of “marijuana tourism.”
After a brief discussion, selectmen agreed that there was time to get a moratorium question on the ballot for the annual town meeting. The motion to have Lunt look into a moratorium was adopted by a vote of 3-1. Selectmen John Macauley, Matt Hart and Martha Dudman voted in support. Dennis Schubert voted no.
Otter Creek Landing
Also on Tuesday, selectmen agreed to shift $2,700 from a parks and cemetery reserve account for design work on a possible municipal pier for Otter Creek. Bids for the $72,000 project would be received in late February, and voters at town meeting would have final say on spending the construction funds.
During discussion, Schubert said he “wasn’t sure there’s a demand” for the pier. “It’s a bridge to nowhere,” said Harbormaster John Lemoine. In response to questions, he noted only very small boats can get under the Acadia National Park Loop Road causeway bridge to access the upper cove where the pier would be located next to an existing launch ramp. When there is enough height to get a boat under the bridge, the tide is so low that extensive mudflats make shore access difficult. “I haven’t done it because we don’t have a boat that will fit under the causeway,” he said.
In response to a question from Dudman, Lemoine said a handful of people with very small boats might use the new pier. The issue has not yet been considered by the town’s Harbor Committee, he added.
Public Works Director Tony Smith said that by spending the money on engineering and design, the price presented to voters at town meeting would more accurate.
“I expect there will be a lively conversation about this at town meeting,” Hart said.
Updated on Wednesday, Jan. 25, at 2:05 p.m. to correct an error. John Macauley was originally named as the dissenting vote in the marijuana moratorium vote. The Islander apologizes for the error.