Too many unknowns to OK pot uses, council says

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WESTBROOK — The City Council has decided for the time being to prohibit the five recreational and retail marijuana uses that municipalities are allowed to regulate.

In a workshop Monday night, the council discussed recreational and retail adult-use marijuana with Director of Planning and Code Enforcement Jennie Franceschi. The council, with Councilors Anna Turcotte and Victor Chau absent, unanimously decided to prohibit all uses. 

Based on the state referendum approved in November 2016, there are several personal uses of marijuana, including possession, use and growing, that municipalities can’t regulate. There are five adult uses that can be regulated, including marijuana stores/sales, cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, testing facilities and marijuana social clubs.

Franceschi met with the council Jan. 8 to get feedback and guidance on how to incorporate these uses into Westbrook’s land use ordinance. The definitions must be adopted into the ordinance whether the council approves the uses or not.

If the council had approved the uses Monday night, a series of workshops would have been held to regulate where operations could be located and how many would be allowable. The city would also have had to create a licensing process.

Franceschi will still need to draft language to add to the land use ordinance regarding the adult uses. 

Councilors said they were against approving the uses because of the various unknowns at the state and federal levels regarding marijuana legalization and licensing processes.

“I’m all about being proactive, no doubt about it, but I think when there’s so many unanswered questions, I would be in favor of just not allowing any of them right now,” Councilor Lynda Adams said. 

Council President Brendan Rielly agreed and said making decisions at this point might be a waste of time and energy.

“My concern is that there is so much that we don’t know about what’s going to happen with any of these things, but what we do know is that we are spending a lot of time and money talking about these things and we don’t know where it’s going to end up,” he said. “I will never support allowing one of these in now with all the unanswered questions and the potential liability.”

Rielly said he’d rather wait and see how other municipalities address adult uses of marijuana in their communities and observe how they “flush out” issues.

“I would be much more comfortable saying let’s just stop,” he said. “Let’s just wait. We can ban all five of these things.”

Franceschi also discussed medical marijuana with the council and shared recent standards discussed by the Planning Board. The board on Jan. 2 approved a number of standards, including where and how medical marijuana can be grown and dispensed. The council will review the item at first reading on Jan. 22.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

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