Cumberland bans retail marijuana sales, OKs budget

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CUMBERLAND — The Town Council on Monday unanimously voted to ban retail marijuana sales and also passed a $9.8 million fiscal year 2018 municipal budget.

The council last month sent ordinance language for the proposed pot prohibition to the Planning Board, which on May 16 split 3-3 in its recommendation back to the council, Town Manager Bill Shane reported Monday. The council on May 8 extended Cumberland’s moratorium on retail marijuana sales another six months.

“I think some of the concern that (the Planning Board) had was that the state was not ready to implement their new rules and regulations, and wouldn’t it be wise to just wait through the moratorium,” Shane told the council.

The town’s moratorium followed the narrow passage last November of a statewide referendum to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana as an agricultural product.

The question failed by 2 percent in Cumberland, 2,788 to 2,679.

“We’re not regulating the personal use of marijuana; that is not something we are allowed to do as a municipality,” Shane said. “The only piece we can regulate is the retail sales.”

Medical marijuana dispensaries are already allowed in Cumberland’s Office Commercial North zone on U.S. Route 1, although there are none there.

Chris Neagle, a former Planning Board member and the only member of the public to speak on the matter Monday, asked, “Why are we opposing marijuana, other than the fact that it is marijuana, especially when we openly encourage alcohol sales? Two very different recreational drugs, one far more dangerous than the other.”

Banning sales in Cumberland would send residents to another town to buy marijuana, Neagle argued, adding, “When they go to that other town, they’ll take their economic activity with them. So much for you calling yourselves business friendly. Here we have a non-dangerous, perfectly lawful drug that we don’t want, apparently, and no one can give me a reason.”

“I’ll give you a couple,” Council Chairman George Turner replied, noting that today’s marijuana packs greater potency than 50 years ago. While retail sales could be lucrative for Cumberland, he added, “it also could be very difficult to administer.”

“There are a lot of reasons why people might decide that the retail use of marijuana in Cumberland isn’t appropriate, who don’t have any prejudices against marijuana per se,” Turner added.

Councilor Bill Stiles said his biggest issue with any kind of smoking, whether it is marijuana or tobacco, is that “the instant you light up you affect the people around you, whether they want to be affected or not. Alcohol will only get to that value if you drink too much and act disapprovingly.”

“I have no problem with somebody going to a different town to buy marijuana; I think it’s a good thing,” Councilor Ron Copp said. “You can’t buy a cup of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee in Cumberland; you can’t buy a Big Mac in Cumberland. So I don’t think it’s a big deal if you can’t buy marijuana in Cumberland.”

Fiscal 2018 budget

The five members present at Monday’s meeting – Councilors Peter Bingham and Mike Edes were absent – also unanimously approved a $9.8 million municipal budget for next year. The spending plan reflects an increase of just less than $41,000, or 0.42 percent.

Adding assessments from Cumberland County and School Administrative District 51, Cumberland’s total tax revenues could rise 3.8 percent to $25.1 million – increasing the current tax rate of $18.25 per $1,000 of property valuation by 70 cents.

The 3.8 percent growth would add $245 to the tax bill for a home valued at $350,000, bringing total taxes for the year to more than $6,600.

Of the 70-cent tax rate increase, 64 cents goes toward SAD 51, and 3 cents each toward town and county costs, Town Manager Bill Shane said Monday.

Without an increase of approximately $34 million in value generating about $651,000 in new revenue to offset the tax hike, the tax rate would have increased $1.17, as opposed to 70 cents, Shane has said.

Final tax numbers will not be known until the town sets its tax commitment in July.

Resident Brad Hilton, the only member of the public in the audience at the time of the budget vote, spoke in favor of the town’s budget, but had concerns about the impact SAD 51 will have on Cumberland’s overall tax rate.

He repeated the statement he made at the May 18 SAD 51 district budget meeting – at which Cumberland and North Yarmouth voters approved next year’s school spending plan – that SAD 51 is spending more per student than its neighboring peer districts, resulting in an inefficiency which causes it to be penalized when the state allots subsidy.

SAD 51 faces a potential state subsidy loss of nearly $896,000, but having heard indications from Augusta that more money could be allocated toward education, the district has factored in a loss of about $464,000 – half the potential deduction.

In the wake of the subsidy cut, Cumberland pared its town budget significantly from its February draft, which projected a 4.8 percent increase, resulting in an $11 million spending plan.

“The Finance Committee … directed myself and the finance director to come up with a strategy for the next five years to minimize the impact on the town side to get it to as close to zero as we can,” Shane said earlier this month.

As a result, some major capital projects funded through tax increment financing – such as water line connections and extensions, as well as the relocation of the town garage – will be delayed, saving the town a potential $600,000 a year, according to Shane.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.
  • Brian Kelly

    Marijuana consumers deserve and demand equal rights and protections under our laws that are currently afforded to the drinkers of far more dangerous and deadly, yet perfectly legal, widely accepted, endlessly advertised and even glorified as an All American pastime, booze.

    Plain and simple!

    Legalize Marijuana Nationwide!

    It’s time for us, the majority of The People to take back control of our national marijuana policy. By voting OUT of office any and all politicians who very publicly and vocally admit to having an anti-marijuana, prohibitionist agenda! Time to vote’em all OUT of office. Period. Plain and simple.

    Politicians who continue to demonize Marijuana, Corrupt Law Enforcement Officials who prefer to ruin peoples lives over Marijuana possession rather than solve real crimes who fund their departments toys and salaries with monies acquired through Marijuana home raids, seizures and forfeitures, and so-called “Addiction Specialists” who make their income off of the judicial misfortunes of our citizens who choose marijuana, – Your actions go against The Will of The People and Your Days In Office Are Numbered! Find new careers before you don’t have one.

    The People have spoken! Get on-board with Marijuana Legalization Nationwide, or be left behind and find new careers. Your choice.

    Legalize Nationwide!

    • Brian Kelly

      There is absolutely no doubt now that the majority of Americans want to completely legalize marijuana nationwide. Our numbers grow on a daily basis.

      The prohibitionist view on marijuana is the viewpoint of a minority and rapidly shrinking percentage of Americans. It is based upon decades of lies and propaganda.

      Each and every tired old lie they have propagated has been thoroughly proven false by both science and society.

      Their tired old rhetoric no longer holds any validity. The vast majority of Americans have seen through the sham of marijuana prohibition in this day and age. The number of prohibitionists left shrinks on a daily basis.

      With their credibility shattered, and their not so hidden agendas visible to a much wiser public, what’s left for a marijuana prohibitionist to do?

      Maybe, just come to terms with the fact that Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is an inevitable reality that’s approaching much sooner than prohibitionists think, and there is nothing they can do to stop it!

      Legalize Nationwide!…and Support All Marijuana Legalization Efforts!

      • Brian Kelly

        Fear of Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is unfounded. Not based on any science or fact whatsoever. So please prohibitionists, we beg you to give your scare tactics, “Conspiracy Theories” and “Doomsday Scenarios” over the inevitable Legalization of Marijuana Nationwide a rest. Nobody is buying them anymore these days. Okay?

        Furthermore, if all prohibitionists get when they look into that nice, big and shiny crystal ball of theirs, while wondering about the future of marijuana legalization, is horror, doom, and despair, well then I suggest they return that thing as quickly as possible and reclaim the money they shelled out for it, since it’s obviously defective.

        If prohibitionists are going to take it upon themselves to worry about “saving us all” from ourselves, then they need to start with the drug that causes more detriment to our society than every other drug in the world COMBINED, which is alcohol!

        Why do prohibitionists feel the continued need to vilify and demonize marijuana when they could more wisely focus their efforts on a real, proven killer, alcohol, which again causes more detriment to our society than all other drugs, COMBINED?

        Prohibitionists really should get their priorities straight and/or practice a little live and let live. They’ll live longer, happier, and healthier lives, with a lot less stress if they refrain from being bent on trying to control others through Draconian Marijuana Laws.

        “Marijuana is 114 times safer than drinking alcohol”

        “Marijuana may be even safer than previously thought, researchers say”

        “Marijuana may be even safer than previously thought, researchers say New study: We should stop fighting marijuana legalization and focus on alcohol and tobacco instead By Christopher Ingraham February 23

        Compared with other recreational drugs — including alcohol — marijuana may be even safer than previously thought. And researchers may be systematically underestimating risks associated with alcohol use.

        Those are the top-line findings of recent research published in the journal Scientific Reports, a subsidiary of Nature. Researchers sought to quantify the risk of death associated with the use of a variety of commonly used substances. They found that at the level of individual use, alcohol was the deadliest substance, followed by heroin and cocaine.”

        “The report discovered that marijuana is 114 times less deadly than alcohol. Researchers were able to determine this by comparing the lethal doses with the amount of typical use. Through this approach, marijuana had the lowest mortality risk to users out of all the drugs they studied. In fact—because the numbers were crossed with typical daily use—marijuana is the only drug that tested as “low risk.”