Oxford puts retail marijuana on hold

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OXFORD — The majority of Oxford voters approved a 180-day moratorium on retail marijuana-related activities at the January 18 Special Town Meeting.

The passage of the moratorium on a 34 to 7 vote means that during that 180-day period no application related to the establishment or operation of a retail marijuana establishment and/or retail marijuana social club can be accepted, processed or acted on for any approval. That would include a license, building permit, certificate of occupancy, site plan review, conditional use, or any other approval related to retail marijuana by the town of Oxford.

Voters at the meeting, which was held in the Oxford Elementary School cafeteria, passed the measure with only limited discussion including a question by resident Samantha Hewey who asked what would happen at the end of the 180-day period.

“Is the town looking to ban it (retail marijuana) indefinitely?” she asked.

Selectmen Chairman Pete Laverdiere said Oxford, like other towns and cities across the state, is “in a conundrum because we don’t know what the rules are because they are not there yet,” he said referring to the state’s continued delay in adopting regulations for the 2016 statewide voter legalization of retail marijuana.

“In 180 days if we haven’t heard from the state, we will ask for another moratorium until we know what the ground rules are,” he said.

State Rep. Kathleen Dillingham (R-Oxford) said the issue is happening across the state. “We have not formed the rules for it as yet. They’re back at it,” she said of the work of the state Legislature to resolve the issue.

Town Manager Butch Asselin said only two inquiries for retail marijuana establishments have been made to the town as of this week and no formal applications have been filed.

The town has issued three medical marijuana grow permits – the limit allowed under the town ordinance regulating medical marijuana – but officials stressed that retail and medical marijuana are regulated under different laws.

The action to request voter approval for a moratorium was approved by selectmen after an adhoc committee, appointed by selectmen on October 5, concluded several months of study to determine how to best handle the 2016 state-wide voter legalization of retail marijuana growth, sales and accompanying social clubs.

Since that time, the state Legislature has wrangled with its implementation and many towns and cities have approved their own moratoriums in order to get a better handle on how they will deal with the legalization issue.

Members of the adhoc committee included Town Manager Butch Asselin, residents Roger Wulleman, Dennis Fournier and Rosemary Nicklaus, Police Chief Jon Tibbetts, Town Clerk Elizabeth Olsen, Selectman Peter Laverdiere, SAD 17 Director Ron Kugell and Planning Board member Dana Dillingham.

During action on the three-article warrant, voters also approved an amendment to the town’s Sewer Ordinance so that interest on an overdue bill will be assessed after 30 days, instead of the current 120-day period, and voted Ron Kugell as the town meeting moderator.

Following the meeting, selectmen held a brief board meeting where they appointed Gary Morgan as the eighth member of the Budget Committee. The committee has room for 11 members in total. There is also a need for two additional Planning Board members and alternate members. Currently there are only three active voting members on the five-member board.

The board also reaffirmed the establishment of an Ordinance Committee which includes Asselin, Code Enforcement Officer Joelle Corey-Whitman, Chief of Police Jon Tibbetts, Fire Chief Gary Sacco, Town Clerk Beth Olsen and newly appointed member Ed Knightly, who will represent the Board of Selectmen.

Roger Wulleman asked that town meeting voters be provided with a line item budget at Annual Town Meeting instead of one with just the total amount requested from each department. Selectmen said that will be available.

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