Harpswell takes wait-and-see approach to marijuana moratorium

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HARPSWELL — Selectmen have decided not to include a warrant article at the annual Town Meeting for a moratorium on the retail sale of marijuana.

“Since there’s a state moratorium, I really felt it was redundant,” Board of Selectmen Chairman Rick Daniel said Feb. 8. 

Selectman Elinor Multer was absent when the decision was made at the Feb. 2 meeting, but had previously said she supported a local ban.

A scheduled Feb. 9 public hearing on the proposed ordinance was cancelled.

Daniel said the board will take up the issue at a later date, when the town is no longer covered by the state ban.

“We want to keep an eye on what the state is doing,” he said, “and be ready as a board to meet” when the state moratorium is lifted.

The nine-month state moratorium is expected to be extended to February 2018 –a month before next year’s Town Meeting.

“I guess we wouldn’t want too large of a window (between moratoriums) for someone to apply outside of the moratorium, because then (an applicant) could be grandfathered in,” Daniel said.

He noted there are scheduled windows of opportunity between next month’s Town Meeting and Town Meeting 2018, when voters could implement a local moratorium.

He identified June and November elections as possible dates. Selectmen can’t establish a moratorium without approval from voters, but they have the power to extend an existing moratorium 180 days.

The town attorney is being consulted, meanwhile, to ensure that holding off on a local ban doesn’t leave the town at a disadvantage.

Town Administrator Kristi Eiane said Wednesday that the attorney characterized the local moratorium as a way to be “cautious and conservative.”

Eiane said she is going to investigate with the attorney all the ways the town could be vulnerable by relying solely on the state’s moratorium. 

For example, Eiane said, she wants to see whether the state ban would be lifted if the Legislature passes rules prior to its set deadline.

Eiane said she will likely update selectmen at their next meeting.

Callie Ferguson can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 100, or cferguson@theforecaster.net. Follow Callie on Twitter: @calliecferguson.

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Reporting on municipal, school, and community news in Brunswick and Harpswell. Bowdoin graduate, Wild Oats sandwich-eater. Callie can be reached at 207-781-3661 ext. 100, or cferguson@theforecaster.net.