Thorndike voters reject moratorium on pot business

Donald Maxim, 86, stands in the garage at his home and farm, Maxim Farm, in Thorndike on Jan. 7. Voters decided against a proposed moratorium on marijuana businesses during a special town meeting on Saturday, paving the way for him to sell his farm to a commercial grower. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file

THORNDIKE — During a special town meeting Saturday morning, Thorndike voters rejected a proposed moratorium that would have allowed the town more time to create its own marijuana ordinance before an out of state grower moved in.

In a 50 to 34 vote, residents shot down the six-month moratorium, which now gives Donald Maxim the green light to continue with the sale of his 170-acre farm to commercial marijuana grower Nova Farms of Attleboro, Massachusetts.

The town voted to opt into Maine’s adult-use marijuana policy at an August town meeting, but officials called for Saturday’s special town meeting to consider the moratorium to create a local marijuana-related business ordinance.

“It was being considered in order to give the town some time,” Waldo County Sheriff Jeff Trafton, Thorndike’s second selectman, said during a phone interview Saturday. “We were kind of caught off guard because we’re a relatively new Board of Selectmen, we got voted in all three of us in August. And we’ve been working hard on a sand and salt shed because we’re up against kind of a time crunch on that. So, some people wanted a moratorium to give the town time to put together an ordinance; we wanted to give the voters a choice.”

Despite the voters rejecting a moratorium, Trafton said the town can still move forward with creating a marijuana ordinance.

“This still doesn’t stop the town from having or working on an ordinance,” Trafton said. “It just won’t stop the current business from coming to town and I’m not sure if the town and the Planning Board will continue with doing an ordinance.”

Thorndike residents voted 34-25 in favor of adopting the state’s adult-use marijuana policy at the annual Town Meeting on Aug. 20, 2020. The state regulations cover legal cultivation, processing and distribution of adult marijuana. The town did not make its own ordinance, which is not mandatory as the state monitors the process throughout Maine. Towns can adopt their own ordinances for more specific rules, and many towns do have their own ordinances.

Maxim, 86, and his wife, Bertha, 87, are planning to move into a senior care complex in Bangor within the next month. They’ve sold a lot of property over the years, including the land where the Common Ground Country Fair is held in Unity. Right now, there’s just hay on the farmland.

Derek Ross, Nova Farms’ CEO, told the Morning Sentinel in an interview last week that Nova Farms signed a purchase and sale agreement with Maxim at the end of September. The sale was supposed to close last week, but the agreement had to be extended because of the potential moratorium.

Both Maxim and Ross were unable to be reached for comment Saturday.

Nova Farms already has a conditional Maine tier 4 outdoor cultivation license, which allows up to 20,000 square feet of plant canopy for the Thorndike location.

The Board of Selectmen now must sign off on the state application for Nova Farms to move to the property on Gordon Hill Road.

A post made to the Community Voices of Thorndike, Maine Facebook page is calling for the selectmen to sign off on the application immediately.

“A petition is being formed now in order to have the selectman sign the application immediately and not wait the 90 days,” the post read. “There is a selectmen’s meeting this coming Wednesday at 6:30 I urge the residents of Thorndike to let our selectman know we want the application signed now.”

Residents at Saturday’s meeting also approved an article that will allow the town to raise funds to hire an architectural engineer to design the town’s salt and sand shed.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection issued a citation in early 2019, claiming the town’s current stockpile of salt and sand at 95 Unity Road contaminated Hall Brook Stream. The town paved a new site for the shed in November 2019 and recently formed the Sand & Salt Shed Committee to explore the project.


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