Calais Votes Against Retail Recreational Marijuana Sales

By Lura Jackson

 

The City of Calais will not allow recreational retail marijuana sales following a public hearing and vote on Thursday, September 27th. While the 6-1 vote against the ordinance was decisive, the discussion yielded pros and cons. The medicinal marijuana outlets will continue operations without interruption.

Resident Thomas Webster opened the public comment. “I think we should just forget about it.” Webster referenced how the city police force is currently engaged in other pursuits and adding another potential concern wouldn’t be prudent. “And it’s still against federal law.” Mayor Billy Howard pointed out that most laws enforced by the city police are state laws, which Police Chief David Randall affirmed.

Some present questioned what the proceeds generated by the ordinance would be and how they would be distributed. Councilor Artie Mingo said that the state was no longer including a five percent local share from the sales tax, leaving personal property tax and licensing fee as the sources for revenue. The ordinance proposed a $5,000 licensing fee, which City Manager Porter said would go into the general fund to be used at the discretion of the council for related expenses, and which would “ease the tax burden” overall.

Mayor Howard said that the city would be able to control how many recreational retail stores it would allow; however, Councilor Sherrard said that doing so may open the city up to potential litigation from aspiring store owners that felt discriminated against.

Resident Brad Phillips shared a story in which a man stopped by the city building several months ago asking about available properties. “He said he either came here or was brought here and promised $100,000 a year to grow marijuana for the Canadians. I found out later on that he was a relation to one of the gentlemen that was involved in the attempted murder over at Calais Motor Inn. So, here’s a connection between growing marijuana and with crime that’s already occurred in the city.” Phillips urged the city to reflect on the message that is sent by supporting recreational retail marijuana sales. “I don’t think any amount of fees the city charges is worth the bigger cost… I have two small boys that I’m raising in this community, and I desperately don’t want them to look at the marijuana industry as a potential career field when they become adults.”

Pastor Matt Burden suggested that the message sent to potential residents should similarly be reflected on. “If we’re going to consider income generated, what about income lost from families who don’t move here?”

It was noted that Baileyville isn’t allowing retail sales and suggested we should follow suit. Crystal Galina pointed out that we can’t control or anticipate outside communities and if smaller municipalities opted to allow the facilities then it would still be in the area – just not in Calais.

Police Chief David Randall shared his primary concern. “Anytime I deal with somebody from New York or Connecticut, I always hear how good our marijuana is.” He explained how highly desirable marijuana is that is grown in this area and packaged for sale or trade; when it is traded it is sometimes for heroin, which can be sold at a much higher price in Washington County than in the metropolises to the South. “If we have people growing and packaging it here, are they going to go to the highest market… and does that mean that the marijuana that they’re growing here for the black market there is going to be traded for heroin that will wind up on our streets?”

Mayor Billy Howard voiced that he felt that if marijuana had been legalized earlier, then the current addiction to opiates and heroin in the community wouldn’t be as severe. “It all started when you couldn’t get one thing, so they went to the next best thing. “When the pill problem took off, it just exploded. It was overnight, almost. Personally, I think if it was legalized before then, maybe we wouldn’t be in the situation we’re in today. But, nonetheless, we’re in it.”

Councilor Artie Mingo motioned to dissolve the recreational retail marijuana sales ordinance; Councilor Mark Carr seconded it. Mayor Howard provided the single dissenting vote to keep it.

 

After the vote, Councilors Mingo and Marcia Rogers asserted their support of medical marijuana, which Mingo described as having promising research for recovery from narcotic addiction, among other properties. Rogers shared a personal story in support of monitored medicinal usage. “My mother is 82 years old. She uses the herbs from the cannabis oils for her arthritis. It helps her to sleep at night. She had been on every sleeping pill, every opiate, narcotic drug there was. The cannabis is a natural herb that she’s not addicted to. She’s 82 years old, she doesn’t even know she’s taking it. The doctor gives it to her and she wouldn’t know. There is definitely a medicinal purpose when used in a fashion that isn’t abused.”