If Bridgton seeks second marijuana moratorium, ordinance works needs to be done

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

On a night when Dr. Peter Leighton talked about the area’s fight against opioid addiction, Dee Miller was just as concerned about marijuana-related businesses surfacing with the town possessing no rules to regulate the ventures.

Speaking for the Lakes Region Substance Abuse Coalition, Dr. Leighton told selectmen that a “passionate” and “incredibly robust” group has been meeting, creating awareness and seeking remedies to the area’s opioid crisis.

In the group’s 2017 annual report, some accomplishments included:

• Bridgton Police Department collecting and disposing of 600 pounds of prescription drugs from their safe prescription disposal box located at police headquarters.

• Area primary care physicians providing medication-assisted treatment (to those who are uninsured and not eligible for MaineCare) to 300 patients.

• And, Crooked River Counseling landing a Substance Abuse Peer Support Recovery Center grant from the state’s Department of Human Health Services. The grant will assist the coalition to create a “safe space” for those in the recovery process. The space will be used for cooking classes, yoga and other healthy-lifestyle options.

The group has looked into various properties near Bridgton Hospital as possible safe space sites, but discussions continue, Dr. Leighton reported.

Selectman Bob McHatton asked if there has been a downturn in physician prescribed medication. A new state law regulating the amount of opiates prescribed — exemptions include those patients with cancer and those on palliative care — carries a double-edged sword, Dr. Leighton said. While cutting the use of prescribed opiates may be good, the bad news is people are seeking cheap alternatives, such as heroin.

While the work of the coalition has produced positive impacts, Planning Board chairman Steve Collins and board member Dee Miller says Bridgton needs to be proactive in terms of commercial marijuana business ventures.

To date, state officials have yet to enact rules and regulations regarding recreational use of marijuana, which was passed by voters.

If by Feb. 1, 2018 no rules are set down by the state, Collins and Miller see the marijuana industry taking on the look of the Wild, Wild West, where anything goes.

Miller described to selectmen a current scheme, which a person’s caregiver donates marijuana to a lab, which converts the plant into either salve or oil, and then returns it to the caregiver. With no regulations in place, labs could pop up anywhere, Miller said.

Bridgton had enacted a moratorium to give buy some time to address the issue, such as being site specific where dispensaries or social clubs could be located. The moratorium, however, expired.

Now, planners would like selectmen to call for a special town meeting to enact another moratorium.

Town Manager Bob Peabody cautioned selectmen regarding the use of a moratorium. It should not be used as a stall technique or “obstruction,” Peabody said, but instead “substantive” work in the form of an ordinance should be the end run over the 180-day period.

Officials decided the creation of an ordinance committee “to better clarify our intentions” and work toward creating rules would be their first step in addressing the issue. The first meeting will likely occur in January.

“That seems logical to me,” Collins said.

Please follow and like us: