FRANKLIN — Voters here are invited to a public hearing on Thursday, Feb. 25, at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the town’s proposed Medical Marijuana Ordinance. The hearing, which is being held by the Planning Board, will take place at the Franklin Community Center and via Zoom video conferencing. The link will be posted on the town office’s Facebook page.
The proposed ordinance outlines regulations for the licensing, placement and operation of facilities for the retail sale, testing and manufacturing of medical marijuana. It was drafted by the Planning Board following voter approval for the above medical uses at a special town meeting in August.
Planning Board Chairman Brian Abbott told The American that the August ballot listed each operation (testing, retail sale and manufacturing) of medical marijuana separately and that voters approved all three, although narrowly.
Abbott said that out of 133 total votes cast, the biggest margin between for and against was seven votes.
A warrant article to allow adult-use (recreational) marijuana facilities was defeated at the town’s annual meeting, which was held last June, instead of March, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The measure was defeated by a margin of about 2-1, Abbott said.
In Maine, while medical and recreational use of marijuana is legal statewide, municipalities must individually opt in to allow recreational and/or medical businesses and then develop ordinances specific to that municipality.
The Franklin Planning Board recently sent the draft of the town’s Medical Marijuana Ordinance out for legal review.
“The rules are changing so fast, it’s hard to keep track,” Abbott said behind the reasoning to seek legal advice.
He noted that the town has issued a moratorium on medical marijuana operations while the regulations are drafted.
At the public hearing, voters will get to review the ordinance, ask questions and make comments. Based on public comment from that hearing, the Planning Board will decide at its meeting immediately following whether to make changes to the draft. The board will then vote on whether to recommend the ordinance to the Board of Selectmen.
With recommendation from the Planning Board, the ordinance will only need a majority vote at the annual Town Meeting to pass. Without, it will need a two-thirds majority, Abbott explained.
He said that if the draft comes back from its legal review with few changes, “I could see the [Planning Board] supporting it.”
Extensive changes may require more discussion from the Planning Board, he said.
Town Meeting is tentatively set for March 27, pending scheduling hiccups due to the pandemic.