Council Calls for a Vote on Marijuana Shops

Thursday, October 4, 2018
By Sue Ellen Woodcock

The Town Council has voted to have a special election to decide whether the town should allow a retail marijuana shop to be located in Winthrop, but it also sent the matter back to the council’s Rules and Ordinance Committee to work on the wording of the question.

As motions were made Tuesday night, the special election could be on March 29 and cost the town $20,000, or it can be voted on no later than the first Tuesday in November, 2019. Either way, the town will decide whether or not it would like a retail recreational marijuana shop in town.

Councillor Jim Letterie, who made the motion, said there is flexibility on the special election date on March 29.

“I don’t think we can do it this fall,” he said.

The key is whether or not the town can have its marijuana moratorium extended.

Town Manager Austin Faison said he is still working with the state attorney general’s office to see if the town’s moratorium on pot shops can be extended beyond Dec. 31.

If it not extended the town runs the risk of someone opening a shop on Jan. 1

Several people spoke in opposition of the recreational marijuana shop. Some said there been some confusion over the November 2016 statewide vote on recreational marijuana. The town was in favor of recreational pot by 53 percent.

Former Town Council President Peter Gill urged the council to let the voters vote.

“File a referendum vote prior to the deadline of Dec. 31,” Gill said. “The sole purpose of the referendum is to let the voters be heard.”

Marijuana licenses are based on the number of liquor stores in town. Winthrop has six so it could qualify for one retail marijuana shop.

Resident Carol Facella said there was confusion about the question. She warned of the message being sent and the impact of the herb on the brain, behavior and judgement. She did note there were revenues with marijuana, but she was not fond of them.

“Is this the best way we can get money?” she asked.

Councillor Phil Boncore wanted to see the subject come up after a committee had established the wording for the question.

“Put a proper question before us before we take a vote to do something,” he said.

The ballot question has now gone to the council’s Rules and Ordinances Committee for wording of the question.

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