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Topsham selectmen weigh moratorium on marijuana dispensaries

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Topsham selectmen weigh moratorium on marijuana dispensaries

TOPSHAM — The Board of Selectmen plans further discussion on Thursday, March 4, of a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries.

Maine voters last November approved a regulated distribution system of marijuana for people with specific medical conditions, and a task force then went to work to advise Gov. John Baldacci on implementing the new law.

However, Topsham Planning Director Rich Roedner expressed concern that the task force had not addressed confidentiality provisions in the law, which makes it a crime to divulge the location and operation of a dispensary, and who is using it.

“I don’t know how to create a regulation under the confidentiality requirements that we’re faced with,” he said. “Unless it’s permitted everywhere, and you don’t need a building permit, you don’t need an occupancy permit, there are no health and safety inspections, (and) there are no exit inspections. We can write that, but I’m not sure we want to go in that direction.”

As a result, Roedner recommended the May Town Meeting warrant have an article calling for a moratorium on construction of medical marijuana dispensaries, with final rules on the matter anticipated from the state in May or June.

In the short term, Roedner suggested the Board of Selectmen contact Topsham’s legislative delegation and the Maine Municipal Association to ask them to work on clarifying the disclosure issues.

“How can the Planning Board or Board of Appeals hold a public hearing if it has to be confidential?,” Roedner asked.

Selectman Sandra Consolini expressed support for the moratorium, pointing out it would not be to stop dispensaries from opening, but only to regulate them.

Selectman Steve Edmondson noted that a majority of Topsham voters approved the dispensaries, and he said he hoped for public input throughout the town’s review process.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.