Lebanon board chair admits he's a paid pot consultant: Vote No on 1,2, 3, Yes on 42

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Lebanon selectboard chair Chuck Russell (Screen capture)

To the editor:

I'm glad to see the recent flyer stir up so much discussion. That is a GOOD thing. We need to be able to talk about the Marijuana issues plaguing our Town.
So first of all, let me make it clear that I am not anti-business. I am anti-corruption and that causes me to be against the current Lebanon Marijuana Ordinances in Referendum questions 1, 2, and 3. Let me address each statement on the Flyer.
1. Current laws are such that "the state KEEPS ALL sales taxes revenue".
- Nowhere in any Maine Statute does the state promise to share marijuana tax revenue with the towns.
2. The next two blend together.
2a. Per current state law, "Town marijuana fees can ONLY be spent on legal and administrative costs"
2b. "The legal costs to enforce the ordinances and settle lawsuits will force taxes to be increased."
-See The law only allows towns to use marijuana licensing fees to cover the administration of the permitting process and enforcement of the ordinances. In our current situation our Town is only able to take someone to court in order to settle a fine for violating the Town Ordinances. It does not mean the Town can use the fees to cover settling a lawsuit brought by some else against the Town claiming that the ordinances have caused them harm. That money has to come out of the Town's Legal budget which is already overspent! And more lawsuits are coming if #1, #2, #3 pass. Ask the selectmen or submit a Freedom of Information Act request to see the letters from legal offices telling the Town that the ordinance violates their clients rights. Just because a law is written by a lawyer, doesn't mean it will hold up in court. (Everyday on the news there are stories of courts striking down laws.)
2c. "There is NO MONEY for the roads, NO MONEY for the fire department, NO MONEY to reduce taxes." Those statements made over the last few years break Maine law.

3. "Out of state business will buy up properties in town driving up the costs of owning a home and make Lebanon unaffordable to live in."
-The Town is not able legally to limit issuing licenses to local or even state residents. Limiting marijuana licenses only to Maine residents was recently struck down by a Maine court.
-It is rumored that Marijuana business from Connecticut has already bought lots on Rt202.
4. "The corruption. The marijuana ordinances will benefit only a few (The chairman of the Board of Selectman is a marijuana businessman!)" One may watch the YouTube videos where Select Board Chairman Russell admits under pressure that he is a "consultant" to marijuana growers in town. Time Stamp ~36:00 Time Stamp ~9:25 and ~13:00
This is a conflict of interest and is against Maine Law because he has financially gained as a consultant. His actions have and will open the Town to more lawsuits! See
Our taxes, as allocated in the Town legal budget, will be paying for his improper decisions.
The Cannabis Committee was disbanded by its Committee Chair James Duprie after every other committee member raised concerns about the proposed ordinances. He claimed that the committee had become too contentious. That is a half-truth he told. It was contentious because he would not listen to the other members. He kept making recommendations and reporting to the select board solely from his point of view. He then went on to write the ordinances himself along with Chairman Russell. I was there. You can watch the videos on YouTube to see for yourself.
Here's one where James was absent and other Cannabis Committee members raised strong concerns that the ordinances were bad for us as a Town. Time Stamp ~8:40
Here's the law on what our Town can and can't regulate and who is grandfathered, under the Medical Marijuana Laws:
5. "Legal does not mean safe." Environmental concerns should speak for themselves. Year round growing requires HUGE amounts of water and electricity. Lebanon doesn't have anything in place to address the use and storage of the harmful and hazardous chemicals used in the growing and processing of marjuana.
There's also the economic side. No one has studied how many stores, growers, etc our Town can support. The marijuana growers seem to be popping up unchecked all over town. New retail stores are lining up to get a license. Too many at once will collapse the marijuana market. Lebanon doesn't need our locally owned and operated stores to fail and close, leaving only the out of state, big business places open.
Voting "Yes" on Referendum 42 doesn't mean that you are anti-marijuana business. It means that you are anti-current Lebanon Marijuana Ordinances in Referendum questions 1, 2, and 3 because the ordinances are harmful to us as a Town.
Voting "Yes" on Referendum 42 will put the burden back on the state to enforce their laws while protecting personal use and Caregivers until we can get good leadership and work together to develop good ordinances, addressing the whole picture of the marijuana industry. That will benefit our WHOLE TOWN. Referendum 42 is the right choice, right now.

- Michael Walsworth,

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