Coming To Terms With Marijuana Sales In Orleans

By: Ed Maroney

Topics: Marijuana

Orleans will hold a public hearing on zoning bylaws governing the sale of marijuana on Sept. 11.

ORLEANS Since town meeting decided earlier this month not to ban marijuana sales, town officials and advocates are starting to speak the same language.

“Many of us have had personal therapeutic experiences with family members that made us recognize that when you see 'recreational marijuana' on the planning board agenda, the truth is, it's more appropriately 'adult-use cannabis,'” Rick Francolini told the board May 16. “That's how the state refers to it. Much of the adult use of cannabis is not for recreation.”

Recreational marijuana “is not the same as adult-use cannabis,” another speaker said at the planing board meeting. “A lot of people use it for something other than recreation. There are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) oils. Many are finding huge medicinal uses in CBD oils that don't cause a psychoactive effect. It would be a great thing for Orleans to be a mecca where you can get health benefits, relaxation, and diversity.”

Shortly thereafter, Planning and Community Development Director George Meservey mentioned “adult-use cannabis” and added, “I want to take that term to heart.”

As they promised, backers of marijuana use have joined the process to help prepare zoning for sales, cultivation, and other potential uses. Francolini submitted a lengthy memo that Meservey said he'd share with the board.

Meservey walked members through a list of questions he had prepared with an eye toward drawing up zoning regulations for the projected Oct. 29 special town meeting. There'll be more discussion among the members and with the public at the board's June 5 meeting and a subsequent public hearing.

Meservey advised that retail sales should be allowed in the Village Center, General Business, and Limited Business zones, with manufacturing permitted in the General Business and Industrial zones. “Cultivation should probably be relegated to the industrial district,” he said.

Saying he'd heard a couple of inquiries about allowing cultivation in residential districts where there are farms, Meservey said there are concerns about security and lighting requirements. “This is a regulated substance,” he said. “Putting it in residential neighborhoods could be problematic.”

A community is allowed to cap the number of establishments at no more than 20 percent of its liquor stores, of which there are five in Orleans. “It's never been the Orleans way to limit competition,” Meservey said. The board also discussed whether facilities should be limited to stand-alone structures.

During public comment, John Lipman said the board should make sure retail sales take place in the downtown area. “I would be concerned about a retail use like this that would be occurring on the edge of town or in a hidden location,” he said. “We would want any marijuana retail establishment to be part of the business community.”

Another speaker noted that people are already allowed to grow marijuana at their residences for their own use. “You're not allowed to have a still in the backyard and sell moonshine,” he said, “but the government allows you to make beer and wine. We need to remain open-minded.”

Josh Stewart, who had criticized the board sharply for not being more proactive, drew some smiles when he introduced himself as “the angry guy from town meeting” and offered an apology. He urged the board to “work to create a process that might (also) be utilized for the next things that come across the table: sidewalks, wastewater, downtown apartment density. There's some room to grow as far as including and actively engaging the community and meeting them where they are rather than at 7 o'clock on a weeknight.”

Stewart said board member Steve Bornemeier “said it best: 'We need to learn.' No pun intended, this should be a home-grown bylaw.”