Ordinance covering medical marijuana issues passes in Houlton

Posted March 15, 2011, at 10:16 p.m.

HOULTON, Maine — With no opposition from either the public or the Town Council, an ordinance outlining where medical marijuana dispensaries can be allowed in the community passed unanimously Monday evening.

During a brief council meeting, all members voted to support the proposed ordinance, which also specified where marijuana can be cultivated in the community. The proposal will make changes to the town’s ordinances and codes and was drafted to comply with the state’s medical marijuana law that was approved by voters in 2009.

The law allows people suffering from certain medical conditions, such as cancer, AIDS and multiple sclerosis, to use marijuana, to possess up to 2½ ounces of the drug and to grow up to six plants. It allows qualified individuals to set up medical marijuana dispensaries that would be licensed by the state and expands the list of ailments for which doctors can recommend medical marijuana.

More than 400 Mainers have applied to be medical marijuana patients under the new law, and nonprofit storefront dispensaries are preparing to open in eight Maine communities, bringing medical grade marijuana to qualified patients throughout the state. The eight dispensaries must meet strict requirements for security, hours of operation, patient education and public information regarding employees and board members.

Safe Alternatives, a nonprofit organization, has been cultivating marijuana plants in Frenchville since early October at the first operational state-licensed growing facility in Maine. A location for the dispensary has not yet been determined, but also was expected to be situated in northern Aroostook County.

Maine law only allows for one such site in Aroostook County thus far, but the town of Houlton wanted to be ready for any changes in case more are authorized.

The town is looking to locate any such sites in its airport and industrial zones, which are on the outskirts of town and not heavily populated with homes or businesses.

Last spring, councilors imposed a 180-day moratorium on the location or licensing of any medical marijuana dispensaries within the town. During that time, the town’s planning and zoning boards have worked on an appropriate ordinance.

Town Manager Doug Hazlett said Tuesday that no one attended the meeting to speak for or against the ordinance.

“I haven’t heard from anyone about it,” Hazlett said. “I think people realize that we had to do something. It is a state law. We have to comply with it.”

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