Cumberland council freezes medical marijuana retailers

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CUMBERLAND — The Town Council on Monday unanimously enacted a 90-day moratorium on medical marijuana retail stores.

The council also unanimously adopted a resolution requesting that the browntail moth infestation be declared a public health nuisance. Doing so would allow the town to expand its spraying regimen to privately owned property.

Following passage in November 2016 of a statewide referendum to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana as an agricultural product – a question that failed by 2 percent in Cumberland, 2,788 to 2,679 – the council in May 2017 enacted a ban on retail marijuana sales.

When the state Legislature in July enacted an amendment to Maine’s medical marijuana law, it added language allowing medical marijuana providers to have a retail component as part of their license, Town Manager Bill Shane said Monday.

The town has no rules that govern medical marijuana retail stores.

“The unregulated location and operation of (such) stores within the Town raises legitimate and substantial questions about the impact of such activity on the Town,” the moratorium ordinance states, “including questions as to compatibility with existing land uses and developments in the Town; the sufficiency of municipal infrastructure to accommodate such activity; and the possibility of unlawful sale of medical marijuana and medical marijuana product.” 

In placing a freeze on medical marijuana retail stores, “we just want to take a time out and look to establish some kind of home occupation-type rules,” Shane said.

Moth madness

The Maine Center for Disease Control is being asked to declare a nuisance to public health in Cumberland, which is one many coastal towns fighting an infestation of browntail moths.

Health concerns surrounding the caterpillar have arisen since 2016, during which time the issue has become more severe and widespread, according to a town resolution on the matter. Adverse health reactions can be triggered by the insect’s fine hairs, which can cause a rash and breathing issues. 

Shane called the request to CDC “our collective attempt to try to deal with browntail moths,” noting that with no town achieving success in battling back the infestation, communities from Falmouth north to Brunswick are working together to spread awareness among residents, and inform them of precautions to take against the larvae.

“We can’t eradicate this by ourselves,” Shane said.

Spraying of infested areas by the town can normally only occur on public land. A CDC declaration would allow that activity to expand to private properties, if the owners consent.

“They still can opt out of any program,” the manager noted. “It just allows us a little more flexibility to work with more landowners.”

Shane called the latest outbreak the worst of its kind since 1915 – when the state offered a one-penny bounty on each nest – given its defoliation of 60,000 acres in Maine. And the infestation is only creeping farther inland, he said.

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

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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.