Voters reject medical marijuana moratorium

By Gail Geraghty
Staff Writer
The legal challenge raised over the wording of Bridgton’s medical marijuana moratorium proved to be its undoing, as Tuesday’s voters rejected the moratorium by a close vote of 1,062 yes and 1,262 no. The results may not, however, be seen as disappointing to moratorium advocates, who will now not need to worry about possible lawsuits filed during the moratorium period by state-qualified medical marijuana patients or caregivers.
Instead, they can focus on the primary reason the moratorium was suggested in the first place; that is, to draft language controlling the siting of commercial marijuana operations in Bridgton. It is expected that the Board of Selectmen will still go forward with plans to form an ad hoc committee to study what restrictions the town may legally put in place to control medical marijuana dispensaries.
What is not clear, however, is whether the board will charge the committee with studying the moratorium’s stated goal of controlling “sites of marijuana cultivation,” which was the language in the moratorium said, by medical marijuana advocates, to be legally unenforceable.
Support for the moratorium was also hurt by the perception by some that it was being rushed into enactment. The call for the moratorium was posed in early September by Planning Board Chairman Steve Collins, and by the time legal questions were raised, it was too late to change the wording on the ballot for November.
Selectman Paul Hoyt said he didn’t think the issue of medical marijuana met the legal challenge of a public health emergency justifying a moratorium. Selectmen had asked Town Attorney Richard Spencer to draft the moratorium language, and when the wording “sites of marijuana cultivation” was challenged, Spencer responded by saying those legally cultivating marijuana prior to the Sept. 9 effective date of the moratorium would not be affected.
The problem, as explained by Hillary Lister, director of Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine, is that the town would have no way of knowing if medical marijuana was being cultivated in the home or on the property of a patient or caregiver prior to the moratorium. Maine law does not require qualifying patients or their caregivers who are cultivating for them to register with the town, and the state doesn’t maintain a patient database.
Both moratorium detractor and supporters, however, agreed that the town needs to study the Medical Use of Marijuana Law to learn what, if any, local regulations are appropriate. It’s expected that selectmen will address the next steps to take on the issue at their next meeting.

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