ORLEANS — It looks like voters will have a third chance to decide if they want to allow marijuana retailers in town.
The Planning Board on Tuesday voted 3-2 to forward an amended article to the Select Board for consideration by town meeting. The vote came after a public hearing and an hourlong discussion.
The article would amend the marijuana zoning bylaw to allow two marijuana establishments in town, by special permit approval. Shops would be prohibited from the Village Center district.
Select Board Chairman Kevin Galligan said it was important to look at every cost control and revenue-making measure because the town could face a $1 million general override in May.
Estimates of revenue that could be generated by marijuana retailers in town range from $150,000 to $400,000 per year, according to Galligan.
There were plenty of opponents of the measure.
Residents complained that any additional revenue from marijuana establishments would be offset by the public health and safety costs and a change in the character of the small seaside town.
“It is not a harmless substance,” Jim O’Brien said.
He called it a gateway drug with negative side effects that would tarnish the town’s family-centered character. “This would be a serious mistake,” he said.
Maureen Boyce said any income would be offset by increased policing costs and loss of revenue from vacationing families.
Steve Bornemeier wrote in saying that pot shops were inconsistent with the values codified in the town’s Long Range Comprehensive Plan.
But there were those who said it was important for the town to come up with additional revenue sources.
David Currier cited costs from harbor dredging and improvements to the fire department building and Snow Library.
“For someone who plans on living here for 40 years, it’s scary to see the tax increases,” he said.
Currier was joined by three other speakers in support of allowing marijuana establishments in town. All four are interested in opening commercial marijuana businesses as partners. Currier is an Orleans resident, while the other three are not. They cited the tax revenues that would be generated, the salary a cannabis employee could expect, and the online purchasing possibilities.
The discussion that followed the public hearing was a tough one for Planning Board members.
Alice Thomason Van Oot objected to the issue being framed in strictly financial terms. She said board members have to think about their mission.
Chet Crabtree was opposed to the measure, knowing a substantial number of voters turned it down twice.
“Our town’s character is not for sale,” he said. “I’ll say that to those who came here to talk with dollar signs.”
Police Chief Scott MacDonald said one of his concerns was drugged driving.
“There isn’t a device that can detect the presence of THC,” he said. THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) is the main mind-altering ingredient found in cannabis.
In 2018, the town held seven public meetings and two public hearings with more than 150 participants about the issue. Voters at town meeting rejected articles that would have allowed marijuana retailers and cultivators in town.
Richard Hartmann said it was the board’s responsibility, and in deference to the Select Board, to get the article to the voters.
The board did not take a position on the disposition of the article. They will have a chance to do so at a future meeting.
Follow Denise Coffey on Twitter: @DeniseCoffeyCCT.