Canton board OKs vote on marijuana store, dispensary

CANTON — Selectmen granted a request Thursday to let voters decide whether to allow a medical marijuana store or dispensary in town. A date for the secret ballot referendum was not set.

In July, a straw poll indicated voters opposed both businesses, 138-86 and 121-95, respectively.

At Thursday’s meeting, Kevin Belanger of Dixfield, owner of the Canton Caboose and of a medical marijuana shop in Mexico, asked selectmen to hold a vote because he wanted the opportunity “to present his case” at a hearing.

“I don’t think people should deny others from having a quality of life if something helps them,” he said. “You know if aspirin doesn’t help me or if penicillin doesn’t help me there is an alternative.”

Selectman Scotty Kilbreth said “perhaps an ordinance (is needed) and perhaps we should have several public hearings” on the issue. He said a vote should be held next year.

Belanger asked what selectmen have heard from residents opposed to marijuana stores or dispensaries.

“I heard that a lot of people that are for it said ‘we didn’t even know (about the straw poll),” Selectman Don Hutchins said. “They don’t usually vote so it’s hard if they don’t know. Other people just don’t like it. They look at it, as you may call it ‘medical,’ but marijuana is marijuana.”

Board Chairman Russell Adams said the decision on whether a town has medical marijuana establishments is part of a state law.

In other news, Deputy Clerk Jennifer Blodgett showed the board the town’s new ballot-scanning machine.

“It’s really cool,” she said. “I love this thing and I think everybody else is going to really (appreciate it),” she said.

Town clerks won’t have to count votes by hand on Election Day, Blodgett said.

On Friday, Blodgett said the town has 842 registered voters and as of Thursday there were 129 requests for absentee ballots and 91 of them have been returned to the Town Office.

Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 3 at the Town Office.

It was also announced that the town will stage a drive-thru Trunk or Treat on Halloween, Oct. 31, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the town boat launch off Staples Hill Road. Families are asked to remain in their vehicles to receive candy, Selectman Carole Robbins said. Organizers are trying to “minimize handling and contact” due to the coronavirus pandemic, she said.

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