The people of Eliot, Maine, have just said “yes” to dispensaries by saying “no” to a moratorium on the pot shops.
Organizers behind an effort to open a nonprofit medical marijuana dispensary in Eliot cleared a big hurdle Saturday when voters at a town meeting turned down a proposed moratorium that would have stopped the pot shop until local elected officials had “more time to study the issue.”
After a “substantial” debate on the topic, a simple hand vote saw the proposed moratorium failing to pass, with some voters saying they didn’t want to support a “temporary” ban that seemed too open-ended. One resident argued the moratorium would let selectmen study the issue “in perpetuity,” reports Geoff Cunningham Jr at Foster’s Daily Democrat.
About 100 Town Meeting voters were gathered at Marshwood Middle School on Saturday to vote on 40-plus articles. The most heavily debated and discussed item was the proposed marijuana dispensary moratorium, which was a reaction to inquiries from organizers looking to establish a pot shop in Eliot.
The Maine Department of Health and Human Services, following the legalization of marijuana dispensaries in a voter initiative, the Maine Medical Marijuana Act, last November, has said it plans to approve a dispensary in York County by July 9.
Nonprofit dispensaries will be allowed to open in eight districts in Maine.
Eliot city officials tried to establish the moratorium to “allow for more time” for municipal leaders to establish regulations and “determine the potential impacts of such a facility on the community,” despite the fact that voters have already had their say and approved the dispensaries.
“The Town anticipates that such a study and review and development of regulation will take at least six months from the effective date of this Moratorium,” the language of the measure reads.
|Graphic: Green Relief MD|
If the moratorium had been approved, it would have been a blow to the hopes of the Green Relief MD organization, which is looking at a property on Route 236 as a possible location for a dispensary which it hopes the Maine DHHS will approve.
With the deadline for their DHHS application approaching at the end of the month, the organization has been searching for a place to locate a dispensary in York County, according to Green Relief Executive Director Ron Fousek.
Towns like Sanford, Kittery, Biddeford, North Berwick and York already have moratoriums in place, preventing them from being viable locations in the upcoming application process, Fousek said.
Green Relief is made up of a number of patient/providers who plan to grow medical marijuana in a secure facility and allow those with doctors’ recommendations to come buy it. According to Fousek, his organization will supply medical marijuana to qualified patients, with recipients receiving a “trip ticket” that allows them to legally take the pot from the dispensary back to their homes.
Fousek addressed the citizens of Eliot on Saturday, arguing that the medical benefits of marijuana relieve the suffering of those with chronic illnesses. He said that hundreds of studies have proven it as an effective treatment for everything from chronic illness to addictions to more serious drugs.
“More is known about this plant than any other in the world,” Fousek said.
Eric Friberg, a Gulf War veteran who is also with Green Relief and uses marijuana medically, said the dispensary will not be a place where marijuana will be sold to anyone who wants it.
“We are going to be heavily regulated,” Friberg said. “Give us a chance.”
“We are not here to be pot dealers,” agreed another Green Relief practitioner, Brian Enger.
After the discussion, Eliot residents voted against the moratorium. Fousek said the vote will allow his organization to at least apply to open a dispensary in town.
According to Fousek, Green Relief MD hopes to open the dispensary near the junction of routes 236 and 101 in Eliot.