Originally published in The Weekly Packet, March 9, 2017
Blue Hill Selectmen still grappling with legalized marijuana
No Blue Hill referendum vote
by Anne Berleant
Whether to enact a moratorium, a prohibition or do nothing at all is the decision facing Blue Hill Selectmen regarding retail marijuana sales, cultivation and social clubs. All may be legal in Maine next year, after a narrow voter referendum victory in November, and a legislative amendment to extend a moratorium until February 1, 2018.
Selectmen thought to give voters two choices, a moratorium or prohibition, through a secret ballot referendum, but with absentee ballots available on March 7, they ran out of time.
“Whatever is going to be done, if anything, will be done at town meeting,” Selectman Jim Schatz said on March 6.
Three days earlier, at the weekly selectmen’s meeting, they discussed their options, heard from Sean Dooley, a local farmer, and Lori Robbins, owner of Barncastle, both who expressed reservations about holding a town ordinance vote without knowing enough details of the legislation to come from Augusta, Schatz said.
“It really seems there needs to be some answers before people vote, and maybe we can find some in the next few weeks,” Chairman of Selectman John Bannister said after the meeting.
Meanwhile, town attorney Diane O’Connell informed selectmen that “we can offer up a moratorium and within the product of the moratorium can ultimately be a prohibition,” Schatz said.
But because of the state moratorium, a town ordinance may not be necessary, he added. “We are pondering it, whereas before we were certain we should put something on [the town warrant].”
A second decision is whether to hold a secret referendum ballot or an open meeting vote, if they move ahead with a proposed ordinance.
“You could make a case both ways,” Bannister said, with a referendum vote drawing more people but a town meeting drawing, perhaps, better informed voters.
The warrant is due to be signed by selectmen on Friday, March 10, in order to be printed in time for town meeting. Town elections are on Friday, April 7, and open meeting is Saturday, April 8.
Falls Bridge Advisory Committee
Members of a new Falls Bridge Advisory Committee have been named, Schatz said. Formed at the request of the Maine Department of Transportation and to be facilitated by Schatz, committee members will be Blue Hill Selectman Vaughn Leach; Blue Hill Road Commissioner Bill Cousins; one Brooklin selectman yet to be named; Mike Astbury of M.E. Astbury & Son, Inc.; Andrea Brown, Brown’s Busing, LLC; John Chapman; Lynne Clark, Blue Hill Historical Society; Steve Rappaport, Blue Hill Marine Resources Committee; and Lori Sitzabee, Blue Hill Peninsula Chamber of Commerce executive director, with additions possible and ad hoc members invited as needed. The committee will first meet in April.