TOPSHAM — The Board of Selectmen on Thursday was expected to discuss sending a slate of marijuana-related questions to the town’s Nov. 6 referendum.
The three non-binding questions would guide the town’s decision about whether to allow retail marijuana sales, Town Manager Rich Roedner said Aug. 30. If there is enough support to move forward, an ordinance governing such uses would go before voters at Town Meeting.
The board was scheduled to hold a public hearing Thursday, and then vote whether to send the three questions to November’s referendum.
Voters in November would be asked whether they want to allow medical marijuana to be sold in a retail venue; to permit adult, recreational-use marijuana to be sold in a retail setting, and to allow marijuana to be commercially grown.
Town Meeting in May voted against a ban on retail marijuana establishments. Towns are allowed by state law to prohibit retail establishments, but not medical marijuana dispensaries.
Voters at the May 2017 Town Meeting adopted a moratorium on retail marijuana sales, which followed the narrow passage of a statewide referendum in November 2016 to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana as an agricultural product. Topsham’s freeze has since been extended and expires Dec. 6.
“We’ve talked all along about how to gauge current public sentiment,” Roedner said last week, noting that the laws the state Legislature has come up with are “quite different” than what was put forward in the 2016 referendum.
Since the town must authorize retail sales, selectmen are interested in hearing resident input on whether Topsham should opt in, the manager explained. Public hearings were suggested, but would likely only draw a small number of people, whereas November’s gubernatorial vote should bring many residents to the polls, Roedner said.
The Board of Selectmen is “of a mind that if we’re going to opt in, there need to be rules and regulations in place,” he noted. “So we’ll get a sentiment from the community: should we be opting in, should we not be opting in? (The board will) then take that information, and if they decide to pursue it, we’ll draft local rules and regulations (and) licensing procedures.”