NORWAY — The Board of Selectmen voted 2-3 Thursday evening not to ask voters to approve a moratorium on retail marijuana establishments or social clubs, because the state has up to nine months to adopt rules governing them.

Town Manager David Holt said at the public hearing before the vote that after the Nov. 8 statewide referendum that legalized recreational marijuana for adults over the age of 21, Police Chief Rob Federico advised selectmen “some communities in the state were passing moratoriums while studying how to prepare for this big change.”

Federico said Thursday night that the law will take effect in early January and the Maine Department of Agriculture will have to approve the regulatory end of the law within nine months.

“We don’t want to be blindsided by a club or retail store coming into the area and setting up some place that wouldn’t be in the best interest of the town,” Federico said. “We need to decide if we want them, and if we do, where we want them.”

Holt said that should a town decide to develop rules, there are two ways to do it: set up certain zones for the establishments and social clubs, or approve annual licenses for them.

“With bars, they come before the board, get their license, and every year, the police and the selectboard look at their performance to decide whether the permit is extended for another year,” Holt said. “We’d do the same thing for these clubs or stores. Either way, we’re all fumbling in the dark. My thought is the licensing side would work better to the town’s interest. A moratorium gives us the time to go over these things.”


Attorneys Jeff Wilson and Greg Braun of Braun & Wilson in Paris said a moratorium would not be necessary.

Braun pointed out that after the referendum results are certified, the Department of Agriculture has up to nine months to adopt regulations that will manage the program.

“At the latest, you’re looking at August or September of 2017 before the Department of Agriculture approves the rules,” Braun said.

Braun said approving a moratorium sends two bad messages.

“It says that the town of Norway is reactionary, and that this is being done out of fear,” he said. “It also sends a message to potential businesses and investors that this isn’t a town that wants to deal with this issue at all.”

Wilson suggested the town “spend the next four or five months coming up with a citywide plan … and get it enacted well before (an application) comes through your door.”


One resident said the referendum “was moving at the speed of light” and the town needs to defend itself against these possibilities.

“The bell could ring tomorrow, and I don’t think we’re ready to deal with this if it does,” he said. “I think we need to put up a reasonable barrier so we can dutifully look at the issues. It gives the health care employees and law enforcement the chance to better educate and defend the most significant referendum that we’ve seen in a long time.”

He added that the pursuit of money is the worst of all reasons to move forward without a moratorium.

Selectman Bruce Cook said he would not be in favor of placing a question on the special town meeting warrant asking for the approval of a moratorium on retail marijuana establishments or social clubs.

Selectman Warren Sessions Jr. agreed.

Chairman Russell Newcomb said he thinks the board needs to form a committee to start discussing how the town regulates retail marijuana establishments or social clubs, but was not in favor of a moratorium.

“I’m not saying that it’s off the table completely, but I’d like to see us get started on forming regulations in town before we do that,” he added.

The board subsequently voted 2-3 against placing the question on the Dec. 1 town meeting warrant. Thomas Curtis and Bill Damon voted in favor.

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