High stakes: debate on medical marijuana

On Monday, February 22, the City Planning Board had a public hearing in Waterville to draft an ordinance that would govern the use and legalization of marijuana and its infrastructure. The Planning Board failed to reach an agreement regarding where marijuana dispensaries could be located and the restrictions would govern them. The debate ended in a vote to revisit the subject on March 21 so that board members could further review the topic. A week earlier, the City Council voted 6-0 in favor of a 180 day moratorium regarding applications or permits for medical marijuana businesses in Waterville.

Much of the conversation focused on restrictions involving marijuana dispensaries. Many proposed 250 feet restraints from schools, places of worship, or residential neighborhoods, also adding that no two dispensaries could be within 1,000 feet of one another. Another topic that was debated was whether or not downtown Waterville is the right location for a dispensary. One local noted that Waterville should not try to limit the businesses that are run downtown, especially if other legal businesses such as liquor stores or tobacco shops have found their home on Main Street. Waterville City Manager Michael Roy noted in the Morning Sentinel that, at this point, few business owners have expressed interest in building a marijuana-related infrastructure in Waterville. Since only eight dispensaries are legally allowed in the state at the moment, he noted that Waterville would need to generate more popularity in order to go ahead and sign off on one.

Two students weighed in on the ongoing debate. Both Clay Rowland ’18 and a source that chose to remain anonymous are in support of the decriminalization or legalization of marijuana, because they feel that it can generate tax revenue. “Although I am not the most well-versed in the subject, I think that if [marijuana] is more controlled and produced professionally, it won’t be as abused as much, or have a stigma,” Rowland said. “In society, we view marijuana in a bad light because of how we’ve grown up with a negative perception. The reality is, the abuse of other substances such as alcohol or tobacco is just as, if not more detrimental”, he continued. In terms of Waterville as a potential dispensary location, however, Rowland is unconvinced. “As a Maine resident, I feel like dispensaries should be treated differently than normal pharmacies like CVS or Walgreens, because it’s a topic that involves a lot of legal issues. Where you place a dispensary has a direct effect on the community. I think the dispensary should be placed somewhere where they can most benefit, and I don’t think that’s necessarily Waterville.”