News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in The Weekly Packet, July 6, 2017
Blue Hill extends retail pot moratorium, plans prohibition referendum vote

by Anne Berleant

The vote was 15-7 in favor of renewing a 180-day retail marijuana moratorium at a special town meeting June 29 at town hall. The moratorium, enacted at town meeting in April, was made retroactive to January 1 when the state’s Marijuana Legalization Act went into effect, and expired on June 30, leaving little time, Selectman Jim Schatz said, to take any further action.

The moratorium is on all retail marijuana operations: sales, social clubs, cultivation, testing, and products. It allows time to first determine which of the retail operations the town is in favor of and to create an ordinance regulating licensing and operation, selectmen said.

“If we want to think about it as a town, this is the time to do it,” Selectman Ellen Best said.

The statewide moratorium will delay retail marijuana operations until at least next February and supersedes any town law, raising the question of the need for a town-level moratorium.

“I’ve said from the beginning, we’re not achieving anything by this,” East Blue Hill resident Dan Brown said. A licensed medical marijuana caregiver who opened a grow supply store earlier this year in Blue Hill, Brown said he plans to open a retail marijuana store. A planned summer vote on prohibition ordinances will determine “whether I should open a store in Blue Hill or look elsewhere,” he said.

An “up and down” referendum will ask voters to decide whether Blue Hill should prohibit any or all of the five retail operations allowed under the Marijuana Legalization Act.

Selectmen discussed the referendum process at their regular Friday meeting on June 30, after Scott Miller, who had served as special town meeting moderator, asked whether a time frame for the referendum had been set.

“You should be talking about it now,” resident Tim Horton said.

Best said the referendum questions could be adapted from Maine Municipal Association sample ordinance. A public hearing would precede the referendum, tentatively scheduled for the first half of August. If any of the prohibition referendum questions fail, selectmen will then begin crafting an ordinance regulating the retail operation(s), gathering public input in meetings prior to any vote.

“If there’s an appetite for [any] of them, we have to do our work,” Schatz said.