Falmouth OKs marijuana moratorium, continues work on pesticides

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FALMOUTH — The Town Council approved a moratorium on all businesses related to recreational marijuana Monday, and set up an ad-hoc committee to study potential issues that may arise when and if the town does license those types of businesses. 

The council also encouraged the Conservation Commission to continue working on possible new rules around the application of pesticides.

The Conservation Commission has not created any recommended ordinance language, Nancy Lightbody, the commission co-chairwoman said, but “we’ve realized the most important thing is to be collaborative rather than combative.”

To that end one of the commission’s main goals is “to create a comprehensive education program for people because if not used properly, pesticides are dangerous to everyone,” Lightbody said.

The council made bringing “forward an ordinance to restrict pesticide applications” a high priority in its current work plan and tasked the Conservation Commission with studying how best that could be done.

Part of that work also included determining what the possible impacts of such an ordinance would be on both residential and commercial properties, as well as on the environment, from Casco Bay to sources of fresh water.

Lightbody said the commission has been hard at work reviewing the science around pesticide use and said it’s also held three fact-finding sessions with stakeholders that include commercial applicators, nurseries, golf courses and local residents.

Two dozen Maine towns already have some sort of ordinance restricting or banning the use of pesticides, Lightbody said, and the commission has also studied those rules in order to avoid reinventing the wheel.

“We’ve been working hard to get information from the community, but we still have a lot of questions and are not near the end yet,” she told the council.

Councilors said they were happy to have the Conservation Commission continue its work. It’s a task made easier after a legislative committee recently rejected a proposal by Gov. Paul LePage that would have made it against state law for municipalities to enact their own pesticide restrictions or bans.

The council also particularly liked the focus on educating people.

“An educational campaign is an excellent thing to focus on,” Councilor Aaron Svedlow said. “Because not every weed needs Roundup.”

In answer to a question from Councilor Caleb Hemphill, Lightbody said the Conservation Commission would definitely be interested in continuing its review of pesticide use.

“There is a lot of interest and this is a huge topic for Falmouth, particularly with our shorefront on Casco Bay,” she said. “Our goal is to get something into writing, but we’re not there yet.”

Councilor Claudia King noted the “significant deleterious effects” of pesticides on both humans and the environment and wanted to know where the commission sees itself heading.

“Right now,” Lightbody said, “we are wrestling with how much regulation is wanted or needed and what exceptions (if any) to include.”

In her comments, Councilor Andrea Ferrante said she was “more interested in helping people make informed choices rather than imposing new rules.”

In wrapping up the discussion, Karen Farber, the council chairwoman, said councilors may be able to provide further guidance to the Conservation Commission following its annual work plan session in July.

Marijuana

There was no discussion prior to the vote on the recreational marijuana moratorium, which was approved unanimously.

The council has been considering implementing a moratorium for several months and has previously held workshops and a public hearing.

Under the moratorium, there is a temporary, 180-day ban on “the location, operation or licensing of any retail marijuana social clubs and any retail marijuana establishments within the town.”

The council then took a second vote, which was also unanimous, on establishing an ad hoc committee to review the potential impact of allowing retail marijuana establishments in town and where they might locate.

The committee will include three councilors who will be assigned following the June 13 municipal election, and will be tasked with making “recommendations regarding zoning amendments and licensing requirements, as needed, related to retail marijuana enterprises in Falmouth.”

In making its recommendations, the committee must solicit and consider public input, consult with the entire council and consult with public safety officials, the order said.

The committee must also consider any impacts on youth, the direction being taken by neighboring towns, the experiences of other states and any financial implications for the town in either allowing or not allowing retail marijuana enterprises.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KirishCollins.

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