Durham weighs marijuana business moratorium

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DURHAM —  Like most of its neighbors, the town is considering a moratorium on retail sales of marijuana. 

Kevin Nadeau, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said the need to discuss and act on a moratorium came about after several inquiries from individuals considering establishing marijuana growth operations. 

“It was a little bit of a wake-up call,” Nadeau said. “We want to get in front of it.”

Several nearby towns, including BrunswickFreeport, and Yarmouth, have also enacted moratoriums to allow time for to forumulate local rules that would govern recreational marijuana operations, which were legalized in a statewide referendum last fall.

The town will hold a public hearing on a moratorium Tuesday, Sept. 19, in the Durham Community School cafeteria. The hearing will address questions around a moratorium referendum question that will appear on the November municipal ballot. 

Under state law, a moratorium cannot last more than 180 days.

The town’s website states, “The purpose of the moratorium is to allow time to gauge resident opinion on the existence of retail marijuana social clubs and retail marijuana establishments in Durham and write ordinances which best reflect the needs and wishes of the town.”

If approved, the six-month ban will prohibit all retail recreational marijuana activity, and the location, operation or licensing of retail marijuana social clubs and establishments. That would include stores, cultivation sites, manufacturing, and testing facilities.

Town Administrator Ruth Glaeser said Sept. 8 that the moratorium could be extended for one additional six-month period, if selectmen need more time to deliberate. 

“This is not a prohibition,” Glaeser said. “… This just gives the town more time to look at the issue and decide if they’d like to implement something permanent.” 

Glaeser said the moratorium would have no effect on medical marijuana establishments. 

Nadeau and Glaeser expect the hearing to be well attended. 

“It’s tough to say how much passion there is on either end,” Nadeau said. He said he hopes the moratorium is passed in November to give the town time to consider permanent action, but is not sure where he stands yet on a permanent ban.

“As a selectman, I’m waiting to hear what the town has to say,” he said. “As an individual, I think I need to learn more as well.” 

The moratorium will become effective immediately, if it is adopted by voters in November. According to Nadeau, the board’s goal is to have a permanent ordinance to vote on next April, whether it’s a ban or it allows retail recreational marijuana activity.

“(An ordinance) could be permanent either way or there could be some middle ground,” he said. “… For now, we’re just hoping to hear from residents on both sides of the issue.” 

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

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