TOPSHAM — Selectmen will consider extending the town’s moratorium on retail marijuana establishments at their meeting Wednesday.

The special meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at the Municipal Building.

Voters rejected a proposed ban on retail operations at the May 16 town meeting, citing concerns that the ordinance would have lumped retail and medical marijuana together.

The six-month moratorium would allow town officials to develop an ordinance to regulate such establishments.

Town Manager Rich Roedner said he expects the ordinance to be ready for a fall town meeting. He said the town is in the position of having to allow retail pot establishments anywhere. “This includes the lower village, the mall, Route 196, and potentially in front of the high school,” he said.

If the ordinance had been approved at town meeting, it was the intention of Roedner and selectmen to develop zoning laws for the establishments.

Under current law, medical marijuana storefronts are viewed as a retail operation, the same as a store selling glass pipes. With a storefront, the medical marijuana clinic is seen as an accessory use of the retail facility. The clinic can serve up to five patients with a card, but the fifth slot is left open to anyone who enters the store.

It is different from a retail marijuana store, however, because a medical marijuana card and a valid condition are required to make a purchase.

Roedner explained at town meeting that under state law, towns have to “opt in” to have retail stores.

Topsham has one medical marijuana storefront operation — Highbrow — at the Topsham Fair Mall. Mall owner John Larson said he had to do his homework when he was approached by the owners, but had little concern once he learned how the operation works.

“It’s totally separate,” he said. “No one is able to buy the product on a retail basis.”

Much like a patient seeing a doctor, cardholders are taken to the back of the store in a private area where the medical marijuana caregiver facility is located.

“The more I talked to people, I was surprised to find a lot of people I never knew used the product and had benefited from it,” Larson said.

Topsham voters at the May 17 annual town meeting approved all budget items, but rejected an ordinance on marijuana establishments. (Times Record file photo)

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