Topsham residents to vote on marijuana dispensary rules

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TOPSHAM — The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously Nov. 18 to extend the town’s moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries for up to six more months.

But the moratorium would end if voters at a special Town Meeting on Jan. 12, 2011, support proposed ordinance language that would govern the dispensaries, Town Manager Jim Ashe said Monday.

The Board of Selectmen is scheduled to vote on warrant articles for the special Town Meeting on Dec. 16.

The Planning Board in October unanimously recommended zoning changes that would permit the dispensaries as a conditional use in two parts of town.

The amendments define a dispensary and say where and when it can operate.

Maine limits the number of dispensaries to one in each of eight districts. The dispensary for District 4 – Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Knox and Waldo counties – has been awarded to Northeast Patients Group, which plans to open its dispensary in Thomaston.

But Planning Director Rich Roedner noted that the state could expand the number of authorized facilities and that it is necessary to have local rules in place.

The Planning Board recommends that dispensaries not be within 500 feet of the nearest boundary line of a lot that is used as a residence, playground, school, nursery school, park, day-care center or church. The facilities would also have to be at least 1,000 feet away from the boundary line of other dispensaries.

They could be open at most 12 hours a day, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., excluding time for medical marijuana cultivation.

Dispensaries would be permitted as conditional uses in Topsham’s Mixed Use Commercial and Business Park districts, which would essentially confine them to the Topsham Fair Mall and an undeveloped area on the northwest side of the interchange of Interstate 295 and Route 196.

Roedner has said that state law allows a town to pass “reasonable regulations” that govern the number and location of facilities, but that dispensaries must be allowed.

Residents at Town Meeting in May approved a 180-day moratorium on the dispensaries, which gave the town time to develop a local ordinance. That moratorium expired Nov. 19.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.