Norway selectmen set vote on marijuana moratorium


NORWAY — The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously Thursday evening to schedule a public hearing and town meeting to vote on a 180-day moratorium on medical marijuana production facilities.

The hearing is set for 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 5, at the Norway Town Office, followed by the meeting and vote. 

The warrant will also include an article asking residents if they wish to approve an amendment to the town’s retail marijuana prohibition that would strengthen it.

Town Manager Dennis Lajoie said that after the Sept. 7 Board of Selectmen meeting, he contacted the town attorney, who provided him with a draft moratorium on medical marijuana production facilities.

The board has been looking into the legality of a moratorium since Lewiston resident Rob Laverdiere came before the Planning Board in August with a proposal to turn the former brick production facility of the Advertiser Democrat newspaper at 1 Pikes Hill Road into a medical marijuana growing facility.

Some of the five selectmen expressed concern that the operation would be in Norway’s historic district and that it’s one of three such facilities being considered in Norway in the past five months.

Selectman Russell Newcomb asked Lajoie what the town attorney’s opinion is on how a moratorium would affect Laverdiere’s proposed facility.

Lajoie said that technically, if a moratorium goes into effect, “no office or board can approve any project that is under construction.”

“However, she said that court cases around the country have really favored people who have projects under construction,” Lajoie said. “She said that depending on the applicant, stopping a project that is under construction can constitute a financial burden, especially if they’ve invested money into the project.”

After the meeting, Lajoie said Laverdiere’s application is “still up in the air right now.”

“There’s some leeway with the Planning Board on where the cutoff is, in terms of a project being under construction,” Lajoie said. “The Planning Board still has to weigh in on where the project is in the process.”

If the moratorium were approved, Lajoie said the town would have six months to form a committee and come up with “a permanent solution” on how the town wishes to address medical marijuana growing operations, with the possibility to extend the moratorium if more time was needed.

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Norway Town Manager Dennis Lajoie told selectmen Thursday night that the town’s attorney offered an opinion on the effect of a moratorium on medical marijuana growing operations.