Committee hopes to have medical marijuana ordinance ready by April

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NORWAY — A committee geared towards developing land-use regulations for medical marijuana grow facilities is hoping to have something for residents to vote on by April 2018, said Town Manager Dennis Lajoie.

In October, residents unanimously voted to establish a 180-day moratorium on medical marijuana grow facilities.

The issue arose after three proposals for medical marijuana grow facilities were placed before the Planning Board and Board of Selectmen over a four-month period.

While the Planning Board approved a medical marijuana grow facility on 12 King St. in May, the Board of Selectmen expressed concerns about two grow facilities that were proposed in August: one by Lewiston resident Rob Laverdiere, who submitted a proposal to turn the former brick production facility of the Advertiser Democrat newspaper at 1 Pikes Hill into a grow facility, and another by Chris Getchell and Mike Gonzalez of Boston on dead-end East Street off Cottage Street.

Some of the selectmen and many residents said that they were concerned about the large number of medical marijuana facilities being proposed in Norway and thought it would ruin the atmosphere of the downtown.

After the moratorium was approved, Lajoie said that the 12 King St. grow facility would be allowed to continue construction, since it was “already three-quarters of the way complete,” while the other two facilities would remain “in limbo.”

In the months following the moratorium vote, Lajoie said that a committee was formed that would be responsible for looking into drafting a land-use ordinance that would address medical marijuana grow facilities.

Committee members include Lajoie, Selectman Thomas Curtis, Planning Board members Dennis Gray and Mary Lou St. John, Code Enforcement Officer Scott Tabb, Fire Chief Dennis Yates, and residents Jim McBride and Justin Gilmore.

Lajoie said that eight meetings have been scheduled through April 2018, where the committee will review other town’s land-use ordinances, review Maine’s laws, and figure out how Norway’s land-use ordinance should address the prospect of medical marijuana grow facilities.

“We need to figure out how many we want in the area, whether we want them at all, where they’ll be placed if we do allow them,” Lajoie said.

He said that one of the difficulties of drafting a land-use ordinance that addresses medical marijuana grow facilities is “we don’t know when the state is going to approve their own regulations, or what they will be.”

“We want to make sure that whatever the town does matches up with the state,” Lajoie said, adding that if the committee gets to March and April and “we don’t have all of the information we need,” the selectmen can vote to extend the moratorium for another 180 days.

The committee has already met twice: once for a kick-off meeting, and again on Dec. 7 to review the status of Maine’s laws regarding grow facilities and medical marijuana in general.

Lajoie said that the committee’s next meeting is scheduled for Dec. 28, where it will review other town’s land-use ordinances.

mdaigle@sunmediagroup.net