Monroe OKs recreational pot cultivation and processing

No retail under rule approved at annual town meeting
By Ethan Andrews | Jun 05, 2018
Photo by: Ethan Andrews Paul McCarrier, a Monroe resident and adult use marijuana advocate, votes at his town's annual meeting to allow certain marijuana-based businesses.

Monroe — A back-to-the-lander enclave may have become first Waldo County town to allow certain types of recreational marijuana businesses.

In a loosely worded article, approved June 4 at the town's annual meeting by a vote of 34-23, Monroe granted residents "general authorization for the operation of adult use marijuana cultivation and adult use marijuana processing facilities."

What that will look like in Monroe remains to be seen, but the vote was a victory for at least one resident. Paul McCarrier, an "adult use" marijuana advocate and founder of Legalize Maine, rattled off the names of a half-dozen other Waldo County towns he has lobbied before votes on marijuana ordinances or moratoriums. Monroe's approval was the first that he could recall going his way.

McCarrier has been looking for a location for a marijuana cultivation facility, possibly with a bakery for producing marijuana edibles. Monday's vote didn't guarantee that Monroe would be the place, he said, but considering that he lives here, it made it more likely.

"Monroe is friendly to it, so they deserve to have a friendly business," he said after the vote.

Another resident, who identified himself at the town meeting as a medical marijuana caregiver but declined to give his name, said he would like to build a bigger facility to expand his business.

"All I can say is, this is jobs and taxes for Monroe, and it's a good thing," he said.

Some residents came preemptively to the defense of marijuana-based businesses — if the article had concerned a new winery, everyone would be thrilled, one man said. Several praised the benefits of medical marijuana, which has been legal in Maine since 1999. One resident claimed it kept him from having to take opiates for pain after a car accident — he called marijuana "the new wave."

There were winking references to Monroe's hippie roots. Selectwoman Jackie Robbins said the town is already "famous for its marijuana growing."

"Now it can be grown in the front of the garden instead of the back," she said.

A few residents expressed reservations — that the drug would find its way into the hands of area youths, or that marijuana-based businesses might affect the community in unforeseen ways — but even the opponents saved a positive word for marijuana, as a medicine or as a less harmful recreational drug than alcohol.

Residents passed 52 articles without substantial amendments for an overall budget that Selectwoman Holly Emerson said is about the same as last year. Emerson, who has served on the board since 2005 and was re-elected Monday to another three-year term, said the mil rate for property tax bills still hinges on the school budget but should be close to what it is this year.

In other town elections, Fire Chief Ken Clements was re-elected. Planning Board member Morgan Murphy was re-elected along with newcomer to the board Curtis Marston, a civil engineer who moved to Monroe three years ago.

Voters approved a raise for selectmen, from $2,000 per year to $3,000 per year. Emerson said the compensation was $2,000 when she joined the board and rose to $2,500 at one point but was later bumped back down.

A $200,000 road construction budget approved by voters, of which $100,000 will come from surplus, will go toward ditching and repairs on dirt roads in town. Selectman Tyler Demere said the town's paved roads are in "decent shape" after getting significant attention last year.

The town approved standard donations to Belfast Area Children's Center and Starrett Children's Center ($500), the Game Loft ($200) and Spectrum Generations ($592), along with a large increase to Waldo Community Action Partners, which will get $8,398 in the coming year, up from roughly $3,300. A representative of WCAP attributed the increase to the 18 Monroe children enrolled in Head Start and Early Head Start this year, up from just two last year.

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