OXFORD — Selectmen held a special meeting Wednesday night to further discuss amendments as the town moves toward reversing its ban on recreational marijuana businesses.

In June 2018 Oxford residents approved an ordinance prohibiting the sale and cultivation of retail recreational marijuana along with accompanying social clubs. Medical cannabis was not included in the prohibition.

Coinciding with the opening of Maine’s first marijuana stores in October 2020, two people with interest in opening cannabis businesses in Oxford appeared before the Board of Selectmen requesting that the town revisit its ordinances restricting it.

In 2017 the town created the Adult Use Marijuana Committee, comprised of administrators, public safety officials and residents to research and create the policy that became the 2018 ordinance. But last fall it fell to the Ordinance Review Committee, comprised only of town officials, for consideration.

On Feb. 4, the committee presented selectmen with its recommendation that the prohibition be repealed and that all facets of marijuana businesses – excluding social clubs – be allowed to operate in Oxford. Selectmen held a public hearing Feb. 18 on the revised ordinance.

The hearing brought about 30 attendees with half of them addressing the board with their input and questions. Most of those who spoke represented groups with plans or interest to operate cannabis businesses. Based on the concerns raised at the hearing, Code Enforcement Officer Joelle Corey made revisions to the proposed ordinance which were discussed at Wednesday’s meeting.

Among the revisions to the proposed ordinance were clarifications on setbacks to marijuana businesses operating in close proximity within the same parcel and adjustments to setbacks to day cares, methadone clinics, houses of religious worship and private residences, as well as to licensing fees for different business and cultivation uses.

State Rep. Kathleen Dillingham, R-Oxford, spoke Wednesday during the public comment period about the sweeping changes in the revised ordinance.

“Did the board consider, when revising the ordinance, limiting the number of licenses?” she asked. “I didn’t see any, but some of our surrounding towns do have limits on them, and at the state level we also limit the number of agency liquor stores. And there are parameters around how many stores can sell lottery tickets.”

Corey acknowledged that the issue did come up during the review but was dismissed.

“It did come up,” she said. “In the matter of free enterprise, and the fact that when you look at the different setbacks that the ordinance has in place as to where these establishments can be in the mixed use district. I don’t think we will get inundated … the strong will survive, as an analogy. Not everyone will get a piece of the pie in Oxford. We talked about it in committee but did not feel that setting limits was needed.”

Town Manager Butch Asselin said that with only four medicinal dispensaries allowed to operate under the current ordinance, those would likely apply for limited retail licenses and effectively shut out any other businesses from coming to Oxford.

Dillingham expressed concern about issuing unlimited licenses, citing that at the state level discussions have revolved around stable investment in the cannabis business.

“When you don’t take that into consideration, there are some places where people just won’t make the investment because of a lack stability in the market,” she said, adding that in cases where liquor licenses are increased proof must be shown that the market would support it.

The ordinance will go to voters at a town meeting at 6 p.m. March 4 at Oxford Elementary School on Pleasant Street.

The entry to office space at Oxford Plaza on Route 26 may be the future front door of Oxford’s Town Office. Residents will be asked to approve a five-year lease for the space at a special town meeting March 4. Submitted photo

In other business, Asselin updated selectmen on the possibility of relocating the town offices from Pleasant Street to Oxford Plaza on Route 26. He said the town’s attorney is reviewing the lease.

He also provided data showing the money the town would save by vacating the former Oxford High School building at 76 Pleasant St.

At the previous meeting, selectmen discussed putting the move and lease approval on the annual town meeting warrant in June, but it has been added as an article to the warrant for a special town meeting March 4.

Selectmen approved seven articles for the special town meeting.

Asselin also announced that roads would be posted as of March 2. Notices have already been added to the town’s website and Facebook page.

He said he will have his first meeting with the next town manager on March 12 to introduce him to department heads and discuss the budget process. He declined to name his replacement but said his official start date is March 22 and he will be included on the agenda of the March 4 selectmen’s meeting.


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