FREEPORT — The Town Council on Tuesday imposed a six-month moratorium on medical marijuana facilities.
Councilors approved the moratorium ordinance 6-0, without any changes. With Councilor Peter Anzuini absent, they also set a Dec. 20 public hearing to impose a moratorium on recreational marijuana establishments and social clubs.
The moratorium for medical marijuana production takes effect immediately. The moratorium for recreational marijuana facilities would also be 180 days starting Dec. 20 if the proposal is approved.
Both moratoriums were suggested by the Planning Board in October. The board said the town should wait to act until after the Nov. 8 statewide referendum on the legalization of recreational marijuana, which passed, subject to a statewide vote recount expected to last until January.
The Planning Board had been discussing regulations for places where medical marijuana could be grown and processed since the beginning of the year, but stopped in October when planners suggested the moratorium.
“Given the connection between medical marijuana and recreational marijuana and the uncertainty of what could happen in November, the Planning Board thinks it’s prudent to stop their discussion while we see what happens,” Town Planner Donna Larson wrote to Town Manager Peter Joseph on Oct. 6.
The council in February asked the Planning Board to discuss zoning requirements for providers of medical marijuana and whether there should be limits on where dispensaries, growing facilities and opiate addiction treatment facilities can be located. At that time there were no pending applications for such businesses.
The Planning Board has already given its recommendation regarding methadone clinics, which the Town Council approved Oct. 4. The clinics, which previously were allowed in several areas, are now only allowed in the Commercial 4 district, which is between Hunter and Desert roads.
While the medical marijuana moratorium is in place, no applications can be considered by the town. The Planning Board, though, will resume its discussions of where facilities can be located. Existing facilities and home-based caregivers can continue to operate.
According to Joseph, the moratorium on recreational marijuana production is being handled separately for two reasons. The first is because medical and recreational marijuana are authorized by separate state laws.
Joseph said the second reason is because the medical marijuana issue is time sensitive and the legalization of recreational marijuana has not yet gone into effect.
The moratorium language also states that the town has been receiving more inquiries about recreational marijuana facilities. It goes on to say that the town has no language in place to regulate where these places could be established.