TOPSHAM — Voters at a special Town Meeting Wednesday approved two marijuana-related moratoriums, and a zoning change governing business directional signs.
The 45-minute gathering, held at the Topsham Public Library, drew just 21 voters – 0.3 percent of the town’s registered voting population, according to Town Manager Rich Roedner.
Residents enacted a six-month freeze on new medical marijuana providers. The moratorium, retroactive to Oct. 19 and triggered by town staff reporting interest in such businesses coming to town, would give Topsham time to adopt regulations.
A freeze 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 – was approved at Town Meeting in May, and was extended at Wednesday’s meeting.
High Brow, a retail operation that sells handmade glass pipes, opened recently at Topsham Fair Mall. The business has, as an accessory use, a medical marijuana caregiver operation for up to five clients; such clinics are allowed by state statute, Roedner said last month.
Other medical marijuana providers have approached town staff about opening storefronts operated by caregivers, according to Roedner.
Topsham officials have been concerned that once the state has established its retail marijuana legislation, these medical marijuana operations may be able to expand to retail operations, for which there are no town regulations.
Voters also approved a zoning ordinance amendment concerning official business directional signs. Topsham currently requires such signs to have green backgrounds with white letters, although state and federal rules mandate such signs to have blue backgrounds on certain roads.
In Topsham’s case, only Route 196 – a federal aid highway – is affected.
Topsham will still require green signs following the ordinance change, except when state and federal regulations require something different, according to Roedner.
Tom Lister, the town’s code enforcement officer, said last month that the “overwhelming majority” of business directional signs along Route 196 are green. Due to the town’s mandate concerning green signs, no new of signs of that kind can be erected on Route 196 without the ordinance change, through which new signs on that corridor would have to be blue.
Lister said the Maine Department of Transportation informed him that a target date of 2020 exists for all OBD signs to be blue, but that “any existing sign can remain until replaced electively or out of structural need.”