Oxford committee forms to address retail marijuana in town

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OXFORD — The Oxford Board of Selectmen agreed Thursday, Oct. 5, to appoint a committee to develop an ordinance prohibiting retail marijuana establishments and social clubs.

In a 4-0 vote, the board unanimously approved the committee that will be comprised of nine or 10 people including residents, a representative of the Police Department, the Economic Development Committee, Board of Selectmen, town manager and code enforcement officer.

The first step, said Town Manager Butch Asselin, will be to impose a six-month moratorium on such establishments while the committee works to develop and write the ordinance.

At the Sept. 21 selectboard meeting Rosemary Nicklaus of Oxford asked the board to consider an ordinance that would prohibit retail marijuana establishments and retail marijuana social clubs.

In November 2016, Maine voters OK’d legalizing marijuana for recreational use, despite federal prohibitions on the drug. It became legal on Jan. 30, 2017, to use it, but not to sell it. Lawmakers implemented a state-wide moratorium on retail sales to allow time to set up a licensing and regulatory framework. That work has been recently completed, but legislative action is still needed to implement it.

Dozens of towns have implemented or considered moratoriums on marijuana sales to give officials time to consider their own land use regulations. Others have voted to become “dry towns” and forgo marijuana retail shop and social clubs altogether.

No effect on medical 

The Ordinance would not affect the growth and sale of medical marijuana in Oxford.

The town currently has a Medical Marijuana Ordinance on the books that was updated in January 2016. The changes were approved by voters that April.

In part, the changes restricted the number of medical marijuana grow permits to three. The update was required when a committee determined the town’s Medical Marijuana Ordinance did not comply with state law.

It did not address the growth or sale of recreational marijuana, which was not legal at that time.

The changes to the Medical Marijuana Ordinance made in 2016 included reducing the prohibited zone for medical marijuana grow operations near a public or private school from 1,000 feet to 500 feet to meet state requirements, restricting medical marijuana grow facilities to a mixed-use zone (essentially Route 26), and limiting the number of grow facilities to three.

The ordinance regulates grow operations that are large enough to be required to register with the town. It does not include individuals with medical marijuana permits or caregiver licenses, but does include certain types of grow operations that produce larger amounts of marijuana to supply various dispensaries around the state.

Two of the three available medical marijuana grow permits have been issued. The status of the third permit, which had been issued by the Planning Board but rescinded by the Appeals Board, is now in limbo.

Selectboard Chairman Pete Laverdiere, Gerald Nicklaus, Rosemary Nicklaus and Connie Staples have all volunteered to be members of the ad hoc Ordinance Review Committee for the retail marijuana ordinance.

Asselin said if the committee needs more than six months to write the ordinance, the moratorium can be extended.

ldixon@sunmediagroup.net