Hermon defers decision on pot changes

Posted Nov. 05, 2010, at 11:51 p.m.

HERMON, Maine — After about half an hour of discussion, town councilors decided Thursday night to continue a public hearing regarding proposed changes to the town land use ordinance and a possible extension of a moratorium on medical marijuana facilities.

Though a date for continuing the hearing has yet to be set, Town Manager Clinton Deschene said Friday that the meeting will be held before the town’s existing six-month moratorium expires in early January.

He said the reason town officials want more time to consider the ramifications of such facilities is that they have questions they want to ask the town’s attorney. Among the questions, Deschene said, is whether the town can require the operator of a medical marijuana facility to have an armed security officer on hand around the clock.

A subcommittee was formed earlier this year to analyze the town’s existing ordinances and recommend amendments aimed at protecting the town from the effects of a marijuana facility, including a shortage of or excessive burden on public facilities or services, in this case police coverage.

When town councilors imposed the moratorium in July, they pointed out that Hermon has only three full-time police officers “who currently cannot provide 24-hour coverage.”

While some headway has been made in tightening up land use rules, the moratorium might be extended if councilors decide more time is needed.

Among the provisions officials have been considering are definitions, a fee schedule, amendments to the land use table and performance standards, according to the notice issued last month regarding Thursday’s public hearing.

Maine voters first approved the use of medical marijuana in 1999, and in November 2009 resoundingly supported expanding the law to include more medical conditions and the creation of nonprofit, government-sanctioned clinics and marijuana cultivation centers.

Northeast Patients Group, a recently formed corporation with ties to California-based Berkeley Patients Group, won state approval in July to run four of the state’s eight clinics in or around Augusta, Bangor, Portland and Thomaston.

Northeast Patients Group has been talking with Hermon town officials for months about developing a marijuana cultivation facility in a Dysart’s warehouse near the interstate.

With that in mind, the town enacted a moratorium so medical marijuana cultivation guidelines could be crafted, including the proposed fees and other rules.

Among other things, the subcommittee is proposing a $10,000 initial application fee and a $5,000 renewal fee for cultivation facilities.

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