Franklin to vote on marijuana ordinance Friday

FRANKLIN — The Planning Board unanimously decided March 11 to recommend its recently drafted medical marijuana ordinance to the Board of Selectmen after adding an amendment allowing for medical marijuana establishments to have roadside signage.

The decision follows an extended, written public comment period the board implemented to gain more input on the proposal.

With recommendation from the Planning Board, the ordinance only needs a majority approval by voters at the annual Town Meeting. Without the board’s recommendation, the ordinance would have needed two-thirds support from voters.

At the meeting, Planning Board Chairman Brian Abbott read written public comments that had been submitted. 

Jesse Wallace and Nicolette Wallace expressed concern about whether medical marijuana businesses could effectively operate while following the ordinance. 

Concerns included the ordinance’s proposed licensing fee of $5,000, which they said mirrors the fees in larger cities, such as Portland.

Additionally, they called the required 200-foot setback from any property line and the road “a bit excessive” and pointed out how this rule does not apply to businesses selling alcohol and tobacco products. They suggested privacy fencing between abutting properties as a “reasonable compromise.”

They said the ordinance’s requirement for indoor operation only will prevent a business from serving customers who may not be able to get out of their vehicles and may need curbside assistance.

“We really are just a regular family that fell into this business due to family circumstances of cancer, Crohn’s disease, chronic pain and PTSD,” they stated.

A written comment from Barbara Wallace also pointed out her concerns with the ordinance, including its prohibitions for road signs.

“All businesses in Franklin have signs on the road advertising their name and some have what they offer,” she said, giving the example that Franklin Trading Post has an agency liquor store sign.

After reading the comments, Abbott said, “I would propose that the language be edited in the ordinance to allow a road sign.”

The board unanimously supported an amendment to allow an additional, unlighted sign up to 30 inches by 10 inches, to direct customers to the location of the business. 

Despite this change, Jesse Wallace, who was in attendance, said, “If that’s the language you guys decide to use, I will try my darndest to get that whole thing voted down.”

Abbott said the ordinance would be a starting point and can be amended if adopted by the town.

Attorney Patrick Lyons, who attended via Zoom, advised the board that the updated ordinance would have to be adopted by the Board of Selectmen at a meeting at least seven days prior to the Town Meeting. Copies of the updated ordinance must be made available to voters at the town meeting and at the town office. 

Lyons clarified to board members that if voters do not pass the ordinance, it would not negate the approval of medical marijuana operations that voters approved last year.

The Planning Board would have to make another attempt at drafting an ordinance “that effectuates the will of the voters,” he said. 

Election day to vote on the ordinance, as well as other town matters, is Friday, March 26, from noon to 7 p.m. at the Franklin Community Center.

Absentee ballots are available at the town office Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Rebecca Alley

Rebecca Alley

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
Rebecca is the Schoodic-area reporter and covers the towns of Eastbrook, Franklin, Hancock, Lamoine, Sorrento, Sullivan, Waltham, Winter Harbor and Trenton. She lives in Ellsworth with her husband and baby boy who was joyously welcomed in June 2020. Feel free to send tips and story ideas to [email protected]

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