After a divisive discussion with residents Jan. 6, Thorndike selectmen decided to hold a public vote on a six-month moratorium that would delay implementation of adult-use marijuana sales that the town opted into at its annual town meeting Aug. 22, 2020.

Selectmen argued that residents thought there would be a period of time to develop a marijuana ordinance before businesses would be licensed in the town. Voters at town meeting approved marijuana sales by a vote of 34-25.

The moratorium will give town officials time to develop an ordinance. It also gives selectmen the power to extend the moratorium for another six months if deemed necessary.

Former selectman Josh Ard argued that it was very clear at town meeting that opting into the state's marijuana legislation meant that businesses could apply for licenses and the town could use the state’s regulations rather than developing its own.

He said he does not have an issue with developing a town-specific ordinance, but criticizes the timing of the moratorium. NOVA Farms is seeking a license for a grow operation in the town and is in the process of seeking state and town permits. NOVA Director of Cultivation Dennis Ebert said even if a moratorium were implemented, legally, the operation would be grandfathered.

Selectman Doreen Berry said it is the town's understanding that the business’s permits would not be grandfathered, but the town still has 90 days to review its permits, regardless of the proposed moratorium.

Ebert said the company has about $60,000 invested in the development so far and would need to be operational by this spring. The moratorium would be effective retroactively, starting Jan. 6, and would prevent any town official from considering any adult use establishment permits starting at that date.

The public vote will be conducted at a special town meeting Saturday, Jan. 16, not by secret ballot, but rather by raised hands, to which some residents objected. Selectmen rejected a request from residents asking that voting be by secret ballot, which would have required the town to hold a public hearing before the vote.

One resident argued that some people might not be comfortable voting openly, out of fear of retaliation. Three other residents attending the meeting echoed the sentiment. Berry said people raised their hands to vote to opt into the state ordinance, and so they will raise their hands to vote on the moratorium.

The town will also be voting on proposals for $38,000 for salt and sand shed engineering costs and $101,000 for road repair costs. The Jan. 16 meeting will take place at 9 a.m. at the town’s 85 Gordon Hill Road volunteer Fire Station. The moratorium can be viewed on Thorndike’s website under special meetings.