FRANKFORT — Residents gathered at the Frankfort Congregational Church Oct. 24 for a public hearing regarding a referendum that would opt the town into the state’s marijuana legislation.

The referendum question does not establish a town ordinance regulating recreational and medical marijuana; rather it opts into the state’s legislation, which regulates recreational and medical marijuana.

The petition is worded as “We, the undersigned, being registered voters of the town of Frankfort agree that Frankfort should allow adult use marijuana cultivation facilities, adult use marijuana products manufacturing facilities and marijuana stores … and registered dispensary and/or cultivation and manufacturing facilities … to operate in in the town of Frankfort.”

None of the roughly 17 residents at the meeting seemed to express opinions outright against opting into the state’s marijuana legislation but many of them were concerned about not having a town ordinance in place before opting in. Some of them also shared concerns about how many facilities could pop up in town and possibly attract some bad actors who might run the facilities.

Resident Allison DeCarlo, who brought the referendum forward through a citizen petition, fielded questions at the hearing. She hopes to start a medical marijuana grow operation in town. Eric Espinosa, a recent resident, also hopes to grow marijuana in the town.

Select Board Member Vaughan Littlefield thinks the referendum question will be voted down, he said at the meeting. Residents voted down an article on the Town Warrant at this year’s March 25 annual meeting that would have allowed adult-use marijuana cultivation and manufacturing facilities to operate in the town.

Valerie Walker wants Frankfort to put off opting into the legislation. Instead, she suggested looking at other towns’ ordinances to help craft one for Frankfort. “Take a look and see what it would be like for Frankfort instead of just opening us up to the wild, wild West of what’s going on. At least have some say in what’s happening,” she said.

DeCarlo said the town could develop its own ordinance but rules in the state’s legislation still apply. She encouraged residents to petition for a referendum creating a town ordinance regulating marijuana in town if it makes them feel safer.

Currently, the town only has one land-use ordinance, according to Town Clerk Heather McLaughlin. It is a strict windmill ordinance passed in 2011 after a number of concerned citizens came forward against a proposed windmill project atop Mount Waldo at the time, according to a 2011 Bangor Daily News article.

If the town were to pass an ordinance after opting into the legislation, then it leaves a time period in which there are no town regulations for marijuana businesses and certain rules in the ordinance established after those businesses opened would not apply to them, Walker said.

Littlefield said any possible marijuana ordinance would have to generate enough revenue to cover code enforcement costs to enforce the ordinance. The town pays $1,000 per year on code enforcement and the ordinance would mean more work for the code enforcement officer; the town might even have to hire a new one.

“I just don’t see that an ordinance would outweigh the cost of his expense,” he said. “You don’t want to lose money on an ordinance, as a town.”

Resident Ben Ricard expressed concern over the type of people who might open marijuana businesses in town, he said. He suggested there should be a limit on how many marijuana businesses can operate in town, then maybe expand that number over time.

Resident Scott Clark was also concerned about the number of businesses and types of business owners coming to town. “I don’t want a Dollar General pot town,” he said. He went on to say, “I don’t want some Tom, Dick and Harry flinging out some cash if they’re not in Maine …. I just don’t want that. I don’t want my kids growing up in a town like that.”

Espinosa tried to alleviate some concerns by reminding residents that the state has strict regulations for marijuana businesses. He said it will generate more income in the town and create more of a tax base. He suggested that the town could put off permits for these facilities until an ordinance is passed if the referendum is approved.

Resident Ada Hunter thinks it is unlikely that an influx of marijuana operations will flood the town. “I think, if you think about it in terms of Frankfort, like we can’t even keep a corner store open for more than a couple of years,” she said. “If we start opening up weed shops on every corner, they’re going to put each other out of business.”

One resident thinks some of the apprehension for opting into the legislation is because it involves marijuana. He said he does not think anybody would argue against having multiple “mom and pop” liquor stores.

Resident Michael Shaw said he does not have anything against marijuana but he does not want rush into opting into the legislation — he wants it enacted “correctly.” He was also concerned about possible legal action against the town if there are multiple applicants for marijuana operations and some get approved but not others.

Walker looked into bringing forward a petition for a referendum question establishing an ordinance to accompany DeCarlo’s referendum but was not able to submit anything before the 45-day deadline before the November election.

Cannabis business licensing and regulatory attorney Malina Dumas responded from a legal perspective to some concerns. She said she has not heard of a mass influx of marijuana businesses in area towns after they opted into the legislation.

There are always going to be residents who are not completely happy with the way a marijuana ordinance is written, she said. It is not easy to get through the marijuana licensing process, stating that it can take several months to be fully licensed because of all the required paperwork and vetting.

Ricard questioned why a marijuana business might be successful when residents can grow their own for personal use. State residents 21 and older can have up to three mature plants, 12 immature plants and as many seedlings as they want, according to the Office of Cannabis Policy website.

DeCarlo said she heard from older people in the community who could not have their own plants but they expressed interest in developing a relationship with a local medical marijuana provider.

Walker felt that residents did not have enough time to understand the referendum before voting on it in the November election.

DeCarlo said she was willing to stay after the meeting to help people understand the referendum better. “There’s definitely time to understand this and to think through these things that people are saying,” she said.

Residents will vote on the referendum during the Nov. 8 election. Frankfort residents vote at the Frankfort Congregational Church, which is next to the Town Office.

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