Next Wednesday, Aug. 9, voters at a special Town Meeting in Cornish will decide whether to prohibit all manner of retail marijuana — stores, social clubs, cultivation, testing and manufacturing in town.
The following Tuesday, Aug. 15, barring some unforeseen circumstance, the Laughing Grass Inn, where paying guests may choose to accept gifts of complimentary edible marijuana products and take part in a free happy hour, will open for a three week stint.
The special event is scheduled to wind down Sept. 7, according to the Laughing Grass Inn Facebook page.
The Laughing Grass Inn, the brainchild of Oxford County resident Trinity Madison, is poised to open at the Cornish Inn, a longtime lodging establishment at the edge of Cornish’s picturesque historic downtown district. The 16-room inn at 2 High Road is owned by Richard DeCourcey. Madison said she is leasing the inn for the stint and that it already has a licensed kitchen and is appropriately-zoned.
“With each paid night, this bud and breakfast serves you a top notch breakfast that can be cannabis infused to your desired (milligram) and a wake and bake bowl,” according to the Laughing Grass Inn website. “We have an amazing complimentary 420 happy hour with both edibles and a bud bar all at no charge.”
The special Town Meeting — set for 7 p.m. Aug. 9 at the Cornish Fire Station — and the Laughing Grass Inn event appear to be on parallel paths.
“I’m concerned about the town as a whole,” said Diann Perkins, who authored the petition that sparked the Aug. 9 vote, after attending several meetings of a committee formed to examine various aspects of the Maine Marijuana Legalization Act passed by Maine voters in November.
Perkins said she looked at several prohibition ordinances in neighboring communities before seeking signatures to bring the matter to a special Town Meeting.
She said she had heard about Laughing Grass Inn and some alleged activity by others in another location.
Perkins said the ordinance she proposes is not aimed at the Laughing Grass Inn. She said she wants the town to have some protection moving forward and pointed out that ordinances can always be amended or repealed.
“I’d love to talk to (Madison),” said Perkins, a retired schoolteacher who has been involved in various aspects of Cornish government for many years.
Madison said the Laughing Grass Inn event she has scheduled passes muster.
“I tried to get permits but I was told I don’t need them,” said Madison, who said she consulted an attorney about what authorizations she would need.
Cornish Codes Enforcement officer Wes Sunderland said the Cornish Inn operates under a conditional use permit that continues on with the property if the ownership changes or the facility is leased. He said at present the Cornish Inn is “not in compliance” with the conditional use permit but would not say why.
“I’m not prepared to say,” said Sunderland in a brief interview at the Town Office on Monday. He said the next step is for him, selectmen and DeCourcey to sit together and attempt to resolve the matter.
DeCourcey did not respond to a telephone call seeking comment.
As for Madison, she said she won’t be selling cannabis at The Laughing Grass Inn, but giving it as a gift.
“Anything consumed is considered complementary,” said Madison. None of it is for off-premises consumption, she added.
Room rates start at $130 per night and go up to $350 per night, depending on the room size. As well as cannabis, guests receive other gifts like soaps, and there are scheduled cooking classes and educational seminars, Madison said.
She said she’s had opposition to her plan.
“I don’t want to be harassed for trying to bring tourism to a town,” she said. “I’m bringing money and tourism into Cornish and they’re treating me like I’m trying to do bad things for the town, that my actions are trying to ruin their reputation.”
She pointed out that Cornish has several establishments that serve alcohol and a cider brewery has recently received approved.
Madison said the proposed ordinance prohibiting retail marijuana in this town of 1,400 people doesn’t affect her plans.
She pointed out marijuana cannot be purchased at Laughing Grass Inn.
As of Monday, Madison said half of the inn’s 16 beds were booked for the event.
An artist and baker, she said she’s never before embarked on such a venture.
“(There’s) so much backlash,” she said.
Selectmen, at least so far, aren’t talking.
According to Perkins, the town’s medical marijuana ordinance, which she helped craft, prohibits locations in the historic district. As well, Cornish extended an existing recreational marijuana moratorium for 180 days in June.
Folks in the downtown district on Monday said little about the situation.
“It’s a hot topic,” said one woman of Laughing Grass Inn. “It has become emotional. We’re all very protective of our village.”
Others — also asking to remain anonymous, said if the Laughing Grass Inn were situated somewhere other than the historic district, the reception might be different.
“I’m not against it, but there’s a time and place for everything,” one man said.
If the try-out works well, Laughing Grass Inn might turn out to have a future in Cornish.
“If it is successful and the village decides that we can stay, I would be partnering up with the owner Richard,” said Madison.
Voters approved the Maine Marijuana Legalization Act in November. The part of the law that allows people 21 and older to grow six mature plants and possess 2 1/2 ounces became effective on January 30. The remainder is on hold until at least February 2018, while the Marijuana Legalization Implementation Committee works on rules.
A spokesman for the Maine Attorney General’s Office did not respond to inquiries regarding the legality of gifting marijuana.
York County Sheriff William King said his agency is monitoring the Laughing Grass Inn venture and has received “a lot” of calls from people opposed to Madison’s planned three week event.
What does he think of the situation?
“I think she’s forging new ground, because the rules haven’t been determined yet,” said King.