Oxford votes on medical marijuana … again

0
1434
an opened container of medical marijuana

OXFORD — Voters will have the opportunity once again to discuss the availability of medical marijuana permits at a public hearing set for tonight, August 16, beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the Town Office.

The ongoing discussion over town-issued medical marijuana registered dispensary or cultivation permits continues after Annual Town Meeting voters failed on June 9 to pass an article that would have allowed an open-ended number of permits to be issued.

“We tried to do away with the number (of permits) and it didn’t pass,” said Code Enforcement Officer Joelle Corey-Whitman. Previously three permits were available.

Now the town will ask voters to restrict the number to four.

The permits pertain to commercial growers of medical marijuana such as those housed in facilities along Route 26.

“Those are the ones this board cares about,” said Corey-Whitman.

Under state law, medical marijuana providers can operate with a maximum of five patients at a time. So a person growing plants for those patients as a state licensed provider is not subject to the local permit.

“There’s no need to come to us,” she said of those providers.

The article also had no effect on commercial recreational marijuana cultivation, which voters banned entirely during Annual Town Meeting.

But large medical marijuana growers do need a permit from the town and under the Medical Marijuana Ordinance that originally had a three-permit limit. All three are currently in use, along with a fourth permit that was granted under non-conforming usage, following a year-long battle over the issuance of that final permit. Corey-Whitman said there are no permit applications pending.

The permit exception was issued to 517 Main Street as part of a consent agreement between ActNow GC and the town negotiated to resolve a potentially $1 million lawsuit against the town.The Final Consent Judgment, approved  in Androscoggin Superior Court earlier this year,  allowed the use on the Stevenson property to be permitted as a nonconforming use.

Corey-Whitman told the Planning Board at its meeting August 6, that a misinterpretation of the Annual Town Meeting article may have caused voters to turn down the article.

The Medical Marijuana section also asks that facilities be inspected once a year by the police and code enforcement officer and that owners be required to obtain annual business licenses from selectmen and includes a definition of an objectionable odor determination and what is required if such occurs.

The marijuana changes are part of the overall town zoning, site plan and subdivision ordinance which voters will also be asked to update with some “housekeeping” changes such as adding the definition of “tiny homes,” to the Ordinance.

Tonight’s public hearing will also address the town’s Dog Ordinance and the Tobacco Use Ordinance.

The Special Town Meeting to act on these Ordinances and other issues will get underway in the Selectmen’s Meeting Room at the Town Office, 85 Pleasant Street, on Sept. 20th beginning at 6 p.m.

Voters will also be asked to see if the town will open Pismo Beach and its boat launch for public use,  with non-residents paying a usage fee set by the Board of Selectmen and amend the Oxford Zoning Ordinance.

ldixon@sunmediagroup.com