The Damariscotta Board of Selectmen agreed to ban the sale of marijuana edibles during a Wednesday workshop on regulations for recreational marijuana businesses.
The selectmen decided to add a section to a draft ordinance on “adult use” marijuana to prevent any retail stores from selling THC-containing edible items such as brownies, candies, cookies, or gummies. THC is the main psychoactive compound in the marijuana plant.
The primary reasoning behind the addition to the ordinance was the potential for edible products to entice children.
Selectman Amy Leshure introduced the idea, citing her concern that a large chain marijuana store could open once the ordinance passes and increase the accessibility of edibles to children.
“They’ve got a bunch of candy and gummy bears and all of a sudden you have teenagers walking around with lollipops and no one knows,” Leshure said. “We’re introducing even more accessibility. You can smell alcohol, you can smell the smoking of marijuana, but you can’t smell or understand that a gummy bear has something in it.”
“It works for me,” board Chair Robin Mayer said. “That would be great.”
Mayer then directed Town Manager Matt Lutkus to draw up the language and have an attorney review it to avoid any conflicts with state law.
“I don’t see anything (in state law) that would prohibit the town from having more restrictive guidelines or regulations related to child access,” Lutkus said.
Both state law and the town’s draft ordinance define an “Edible marijuana product” as “a marijuana product intended to be consumed orally, including, but not limited to, any type of food, drink or pill containing marijuana or marijuana concentrate.”
All the selectmen present then agreed that the draft ordinance would be satisfactory with the addition of the “nonedible” section. Selectman Mark Hagar was not present.
The nonedible clause will only apply for the recreational marijuana ordinance and will not affect the medical marijuana ordinance.
The selectmen present also agreed to approve a draft of the medical marijuana ordinance, though they will take a formal vote at their next meeting.
The major change discussed was adding a lottery system for licenses, which would come into play if the town receives more than two applications for a medical marijuana establishment within 30 days.
This would give an equal opportunity for all applicants who are prequalified by the state to be selected for a medical marijuana business license. The modification was also added to the draft recreational marijuana ordinance.
“In the event that a greater number of valid license applications (including the applicable fees) are submitted than can be issued within these limitations within a 30 calendar day timeframe after the first conditionally approved license application is submitted, a lottery shall be conducted to randomly determine which qualified applicants shall have the first opportunity to receive the public hearings required to complete the licensing process pursuant to this ordinance,” the updated draft of the medical marijuana licensing ordinance reads.
The medical marijuana ordinance allows for two registered caregiver retail stores, three medical marijuana manufacturing facilities, and unlimited medical marijuana testing facilities.
However, only one new registered caregiver license would be issued under the ordinance because there is already one state-licensed retail caregiver store operating in Damariscotta, Greenport Cannabis Co.
Greenport received approval from the state and the Damariscotta Planning Board to open a medical marijuana retail storefront at 202 Main St. before the Legislature passed a pair of bills on July 7, 2018 that created the new opt-in clause for localities.
Greenport will automatically receive one of the two available retail caregiver licenses issued by Damariscotta once the ordinance is passed, since its license is grandfathered.
The new law requires towns to opt in if they want to allow marijuana businesses. If they do nothing, the businesses are not allowed.
Damariscotta voters chose to opt in for both medical and recreational marijuana businesses Nov. 6, 2018. The medical question won with 69 percent in favor, the recreational question with 54 percent.
This vote led to the drafting of ordinances to regulate both industries in Damariscotta.
The selectmen will vote to officially approve both ordinances at their next meeting, Wednesday, May 1.
Once they approve both drafts, public hearings will begin in August so voters can decide whether to approve the ordinances, as well as related amendments to the land use and site plan ordinances, in November.