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Dexter councilors approve medical retail marijuana moratorium

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DEXTER — The town council passed a moratorium ordinance regarding medical retail marijuana during an Oct. 11 meeting. The moratorium ordinance will be in effect for 180 days through May 11, 2019 — residents can still use medicinal and recreational marijuana within the law — as the document covers the location, operation, permitting, approval or licensing of any medical marijuana retail stores, registered dispensaries, testing facilities, and manufacturing facilities in Dexter.

“We set this moratorium to protect the residents of Dexter,” Town Manager Trampas King said during the public hearing portion of the meeting. He said the moratorium is not indicating a pro or con stance on the legalization of marijuana.

“We would like to set up a task force so we can sit down and discuss it,” King said, as various stakeholders can help determine town policy for beyond the moratorium.

“The moratorium we are going to vote on tonight is because we want time to look at it,” Councilor Sharon Grant said. “Towns have the option, one way or another, if you want to opt in or out.”

“What is at issue now in this state is if you are going to set up a business,” Grant added.

“We want to think about this, to make sure we are doing the right thing,” King said, saying residents are still permitted to grow medical and recreational marijuana on their property.

“As a town we’re trying to protect ourselves and the people in it,” Grant said. “Once it’s here, it’s here. We want to do it right and not just councilors and planning board members but citizens of the town.”

The moratorium was passed via a 4-0 count, with three councilors not present.

The ordinance comes after a 60-day emergency moratorium was passed last month. The document was developed after King looked at a similar ordinance for Dover-Foxcroft and at guidelines provided by the Maine Municipal Association.

In July the Maine Legislature passed a bill amending the state’s medical marijuana law which enables registered caregivers to sell marijuana to qualifying patients as well as allowing them to operate medical marijuana manufacturing facilities, medical marijuana testing facilities, and six additional registered medical marijuana dispensaries. The Legislature also gave municipalities the right to regulate medical retail marijuana facilities.

During the November 2016 election Maine residents approved a referendum question concerning the possession and use of marijuana by those 21 and older which also allows for the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing and sale of marijuana and products subject to state regulation, taxation, and local ordinance. In Dexter 57 percent of voters were against the question, and town officials used this to indicate that there is community support for the moratorium ordinance.

Since the vote nearly two years ago, town officials across the state and the Maine Municipal Association have been examining what the referendum means, how the Maine Legislature is responding, and what individual communities can do with local ordinances. Communities were given the ability to opt out of the retail aspect of recreational marijuana, which was done in Dexter with previous moratorium ordinances.

In other business, the council approved a three-year contract with Central Maine Pyrotechnics for the Fourth of July fireworks display for the next three years at an annual cost of $4,500.

“They have been doing this a long time for us and they have been giving us a great deal,” King said. He said the previous rate was $4,000 per year.

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