STANDISH — The Town Council has again shot down policy changes that would allow certain medical and recreational marijuana facilities in town.
Councilors were split in their votes at a Dec. 9 meeting to amend the land use ordinance to allow medical marijuana cultivation facilities and dispensaries in the industrial zone.
They also tabled discussions on a regulatory framework.
Town Planner Zach Mosher said in a memo that Town Manager Bill Giroux asked him to work with the town attorney to lay out a regulatory framework after the town “received multiple inquiries from prospective individuals and caregivers interested in medical marijuana cultivation facilities” over the last several months.
Giroux said that without “opting in” to recreational marijuana and establishing a regulatory framework, the loopholes in the state laws on marijuana could leave the town “unprotected.”
The ordinance currently permits only one medical marijuana dispensary in town. The council voted to prohibit all retail marijuana establishments in January 2018 and amendment proposals introduced last year failed. A motion to repeal the prohibition was tabled indefinitely.
Councilors Michael Delcourt, Brian Libby and Kimberly Pomerleau voted against the motion to amend the ordinance. Sarah Gaba, Joseph Paul and Gregory LeClerc voted in favor.
A tied vote means the motion fails.
Councilor Walter Butler, who was elected in November, was not allowed to participate in the discussion or vote after a majority of the council said he had a conflict of interest that would prevent him from being “fair and impartial.”
Butler owns the former GTE building in the industrial zone where he runs his company, New England Castings. He also rents out some of the warehouse spaces, including a few medical marijuana caregivers.
According to the Office of Marijuana Policy, the most significant difference between dispensaries and registered caregivers is the amount of canopy, or marijuana plants, each are allowed to grow.
Caregivers are permitted 30 mature plants or 500 square feet of canopy, while dispensaries can have an unlimited number.
One of those caregivers is his daughter, Butler said at last month’s meeting, but neither that nor the other tenants’ presence in the building or rental agreements with him would influence his judgment.
“I think I have a lot that I can offer in the preparation of this ordinance,” Butler told the other councilors. “Basically, I ran for this seat on the council based on economic development and my firm belief that that is a good thing for Standish.”
“I’m not going to collect a dime more or less because of this ordinance,” he said. “Where is the money coming to me because I voted ‘yes’ on the ordinance?”
In response, Chairperson Pomerleau accused Butler of “trying to spin it a different way.”
“Walter, this only benefits you and you know that,” she said. “You’re really trying to twist this.”
LeClerc said this was not an issue of “serving two masters” and that he believed Butler would represent the interests of the public at large.
But with only two votes in his favor – LeClerc and Gaba – Butler was forced to sit in the audience on Dec. 9 and in any future discussions and votes relating to the matter.