CANTON — With a vote set this month on whether to allow medical marijuana businesses in town and adopt an ordinance governing them, selectmen were asked Tuesday night why an ordinance is necessary.

Chris Dailey of Canton asks Canton officials Tuesday their reason for having a medical marijuana ordinance. He was among about a dozen residents attending a public hearing at the Town Office. Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times

About a dozen people, including nonresidents, attended the public hearing on the two ballot questions that will be decided Sept. 28.

Chris Dailey of Canton asked selectmen and Planning Board Secretary Diane Ray, “Why was it all of a sudden such a big deal that we had to have an ordinance for (medical marijuana in town)?”

He wondered why the ordinance had not been created months ago or why it couldn’t be voted on in November.

He said the selectmen’s request last month for an ordinance had delayed state-licensed medical marijuana caregiver Kevin Belanger’s request of almost a year ago for a vote on whether townspeople wanted medical marijuana businesses in Canton.

Planning Board Secretary Diane Ray said, “Some people asked for an ordinance because they felt like if we opt-in without any kind of understanding of regulations around (medical marijuana stores) then there would be a lot more confusion. They felt reassured by having an ordinance to go along with it.”

Selectman Carole Robbins said selectmen “mentioned” holding the vote on medical marijuana stores during the November elections as a cost-saving measure but Belanger “didn’t want to wait that long, which is understandable, so here we are.”

Belanger, of Dixfield, owns a medical marijuana business in Mexico. He purchased the Canton Caboose in April 2020, a month after he approached the board about his plan to operate a medical marijuana business and an ice cream shop there and received their general approval, he said.

After waiting more than a year after buying the property and a vote still not scheduled, in June he presented the board with a citizen petition supporting medical marijuana businesses.

The board voted to hold a town meeting Aug. 23, but then delayed it until a medical marijuana ordinance was drafted, according to a Facebook post by Town Clerk Carol Buzzell.

A November vote was being considered, Belanger said, adding to his frustration.

Canton Selectman Scotty Kilbreth and Planning Board Secretary Diane Ray answer questions Tuesday during a public hearing on allowing marijuana businesses and approving an ordinance to govern them. Also at the hearing at the Town Office were Selectmen Carole Robbins and Kristi Carrier. Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times

Speaking on behalf of Belanger and on the positive effects of having marijuana businesses in Maine, married couple Matt and Ronnie Horne of Turner said they, with the help of a lawyer, wrote the medical marijuana ordinance for Turner.

Horne said it took them a year to write it and the vote for medical marijuana businesses in Turner passed by a large majority. The town approved medical marijuana retail ordinances in April 2019.

“Our dispensary hasn’t even opened yet,” Matt Horne said, and there are nine others now.

“I know Kevin personally . . . he’s one of the first people I met up here and he’s very honest,” he said. “He’s a very good businessman he runs a great (medical marijuana) shop in Mexico, and he is just small business at its finest.”

Belanger said, “For me, it’s important that I do everything correctly because it’s my livelihood. Like, I’m not going to do something foolish and stupid to, you know, put my livelihood in jeopardy for a small dollar transaction.”

Voters will cast their ballots from 2 to 8 p.m. Sept. 28 at the Town Office on Turner Street. Absentee ballots are available at the Town Office.

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