LEWISTON — If Mayor Robert Macdonald has his way, there will be no marijuana sales in the city — even if voters in November approve a bid to legalize the drug for recreational use.
At a City Council workshop Tuesday night to discuss the idea of enacting a six-month moratorium if the ballot initiative passes, the mayor was vehement about prohibiting the sale of marijuana.
“If you people want to do something like this, that’s fine, but I think it’s a very foolish thing,” Macdonald told councilors. “Next thing you know, we’ll be known as the stoner capital of Maine.”
He added, “We’re not gonna have this here in Lewiston.”
Question 1 on the statewide ballot Nov. 8 will ask voters to decriminalize the sale and use of marijuana.
According to City Administrator Ed Barrett, a moratorium would allow the city to “prohibit the sale of marijuana in Lewiston, or to limit the number of establishments, and where they are located and how they are operated.”
If passed, the law would go into effect 30 days after it’s certified by the governor and within 40 days of the election. But the state would still have nine months to write the regulations on retail and social establishments.
Macdonald pointed out that marijuana would still be illegal under federal law.
“You can make it legal in the state, you can make it legal in the city, but federal law supersedes everything else,” he said.
“If Auburn wants (retail and social establishments), Lisbon, Sabattus, that’s fine,” the mayor said. “They can have them. But we don’t have to have them in Lewiston.”
Barrett pointed out that decisions would have to be made if the question passes.
“Are we going to allow these establishments in Lewiston or not?” he said. “And if we are, where in the community are we interested in seeing them?”
He said councilors would have to decide before the state starts handing out licenses.
Ward 3 Councilor Isobel Golden said, “I don’t really see the downside in taking more time to decide. I think the moratorium makes sense to give us more time to work through the details.”
Alysia Melnick, the political director of the Yes on 1 campaign, said the group was cautiously optimistic the initiative would pass.
“The majority of Maine people, and people throughout the country, believe it’s time for a better approach to regulating adult marijuana use,” Melnick said.
“We’re glad that municipalities are starting to talk about this,” she said. “If you look at places like Colorado, you can see they have a booming economy, and the police have said they aren’t any busier. The increased funding has actually allowed them to address all kinds of needs.”
She cited the Cole Memo, a federal mandate that the federal government will not prosecute or press charges in states that have decriminalized the use and sale of marijuana.
“As long as states take steps to prevent diversion of marijuana to children or to other states, the feds have said they’ll be hands off,” Melnick said.