Standish extends retail pot moratorium: But one councilor urges the town to consider the economic development opportunities.

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Standish Town Councilor Peter Starostecki, second from right, was the lone council member to oppose an extension of the town's retail marijuana moratorium Tuesday night. 

STANDISH — The decision by the Town Council Tuesday night to extend Standish’s retail marijuana moratorium for another 180 days is in line with what many towns in the region are doing or have already done. Some towns, such as Gray and New Gloucester, have even enacted outright bans on such establishments.

But if Councilor Peter Starostecki had his way, Standish would be an outlier on the issue.

Starostecki was the lone dissenter when the council voted 6-1 Tuesday night to extend the town’s temporary ban on marijuana retail stores and social clubs for  until April 25, 2018.

“There are multiple companies that are contacting all of us every day, day in and day out, people begging – ‘we’re ready to start, we’re ready to bring in business, we’re ready to bring in industry, we’re ready to create jobs, we’re ready to expand the tax base, we’re just looking for a place to do it. If we don’t strike now and say we are open for business, everyone is going to go someplace else,” Starostecki said.

“I think that voting to continue this moratorium would be a detriment to the businesses, a detriment to our population, and a detriment to Standish in general,” he said.

Councilor Isabel Higgins, who chairs the council’s ordinance subcommittee of which Starostecki is also a member, introduced the moratorium extension.

Higgins pointed to uncertainty created by ongoing work at the state level to implement the Marijuana Legalization Act narrowly passed by voters last November as referendum Question 1 on the ballot.

Standish voters supported Question 1 with more than 53 percent of the vote last fall. The new law lets municipalities decide whether or not to allow retail marijuana stores and social clubs.

Higgins said after Tuesday’s meeting she’s uncomfortable that there hasn’t been much public input on the issue as the town has considered how to move forward.

No members of the public spoke during the public comment section of the marijuana moratorium debate Tuesday night, though there did appear to be some confusion.

Once public comment had been closed, some audience members indicated a willingness to comment and others said it had been difficult to hear the councilors speak through their microphones – implying that the crowd might not have realized when the public comment period was occurring.

Higgins said the ordinance committee is looking at possible retail marijuana ordinance options as they “try to address the issues and concerns with this hot button topic.”

Starostecki said that he already has proposed ordinance language that would allow retail marijuana in town.

“I’m willing to put forward ordinances. I’ve had ordinances drafted up for the past 45 days. I think they’re good ordinances,” he said.

“There are a lot of ways that this could be used as an economic development tool,” Higgins said, but added, “I think there’s still a lot of discomfort with the idea of recreational marijuana.”

“Peter makes a good point – there is economic development potential, and Standish desperately needs that,” Higgins said, noting that she didn’t vote for Question 1.

Starostecki said that he also opposed Question 1 and helped lead opposition efforts in Standish, but has since decided that it is “better to have a seat at the table” now that the referendum has been passed into law.

Starostekci’s involvement in the issue also has a personal element. His son Stefan, 7, takes cannabis oil medicinally.

“It’s the only thing that controls his seizures,” Starostecki said. “Do I have a vested interest in this? Hell yeah.”

Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or mjunker@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.

Standish Town Councilor Peter Starostecki, second from right, was the lone council member to oppose an extension of the town’s retail marijuana moratorium Tuesday night.

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