Marijuana forum planned for May 25 in Rockport

By Louis Bettcher | May 16, 2017

Rockport — A marijuana forum has been scheduled for Thursday, May 25 at 7 p.m. in the Rockport Opera House.

The forum will be attended by members of the Select Board as well as the Town Manager Rick Bates and is expected to feature experts familiar with the retail sale and production of marijuana. Board Chairman Bill Chapman said the panel of experts will take questions from the Board and the audience.

The forum is intended to inform the Select Board and members of the public on specifics related to legislature passed last November, which legalized the personal use of marijuana throughout Maine.

"My understanding of the meeting is less for public input and more for town officials and other leaders to understand the possibilities and possible pitfalls of various ways of embracing or rejecting the new laws concerning marijuana," said Selectman Geoff Parker May 15.

In addition to allowing the possession, use and sale of marijuana by persons over the age of 21, the referendum also allows for cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, and testing facilities. The referendum, which appeared as Question 1 on the November ballot, passed by a margin of 10 votes in Rockport.

On April 10, members of the Board voted in favor of placing a non-binding question on the annual town meeting ballot in June to seek residents' opinions on the presence of marijuana-related facilities in the town. The ballot question is intended to gauge if there is support in the community for developing an ordinance change that would allow the retail sales, testing and manufacturing of marijuana in Rockport.

The non-binding ballot question reads as follows:

"Do you support allowing retail marijuana establishments and marijuana social clubs to operate in the Town of Rockport and the development of amendments to the Land Use Ordinance to regulate the location and operation of those uses?"

Votes will be cast via secret ballot on Wednesday, June 14 annual town meeting, at 7 p.m. in the auditorium of the Rockport Opera House.

State legislature is not expected to complete its rule-making process for all aspects of the new marijuana legalization until February 2018. Prior to this date the Select Board and the Ordinance Review Committee will be examining the town's Land Use Ordinance.

Currently the ordinance makes no provisions for marijuana-related establishments, and a marijuana shop could be permitted within retail zones. At this time Maine residents 21 years of age or older are allowed to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and grow a limited number of plants.

Courier Publications reporter Louis Bettcher can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at lbettcher@villagesoup.com.

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