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Gray considers smoking ban

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Posted: Friday, October 14, 2011 1:00 am

GRAY - Smoking would be banned on town-owned property - including Wilkies Beach - under an ordinance now under review by the Gray Town Council.

A public hearing will be held Tuesday, Oct. 18, at 7 p.m., at the municipal complex, to hear comment on the ban, which would also apply to the consumption of alcohol and the use of medical marijuana.

The ban, which was drafted by the Gray Recreation Conservation Committee, would apply to town-owned buildings, playing fields, parking lots, and Wilkies Beach.

"There's a trend where more towns are adopting ordinances," said conservation committee member Anne Tricomi, who is also the director of Healthy Casco Bay, a regional organization funded by tobacco settlement money aiming to discourage smoking in Maine. "About 80 towns in Maine have some sort of resolution or ordinance so it's definitely trending that way."

Other towns in the area that have already adopted smoking bans include Portland, Scarborough, South Portland, Yarmouth and Gorham, Tricomi said.

Gray already has a smoking ban for town-owned buildings, where smoking is banned inside but not outside the structure. The new proposal would extend that ban to all facilities, such as parking lots, playing fields, basketball courts and beaches. The ban would also apply to the town's transfer station, the Libby Hill trail network and town-owned vehicles, including plow trucks.

The town's recreation director, Dean Bennett, said smoking has especially been an ongoing issue at Wilkies Beach, where parents lodge regular complaints regarding smokers and the butts they extinguish and leave in the sand.

"Certainly at the beach it's a problem," Bennett said. "We put out pails of sand a couple years ago and the attendant would ask smokers to put their butts out in those, but some people wouldn't even do that. It's especially an issue for the evening crowd who come down there. You can find 20 to 80 butts in the same area."

Bennett said enforcement of the ordinance would include an attendant "cordially asking the person to put their butts out. If they continue to smoke, we would ask the Sheriff's Department to come enforce it. But, jeez, hopefully it doesn't get to that point."

The ban would also include drinking alcohol and medical marijuana. Referring to the federal law, Tricomi said marijuana smoking is "technically illegal anyway" and that the committee wanted to be comprehensive in banning all forms of smoking in order to send a message to young people.

"There is more of a reason to make everything contiguous. Why are you allowed to smoke at Wilkies Beach but you can't at Sebago Lake State Park? It sends a mixed signal," Tricomi said. "It's also an effort to send the message to youth that it's not acceptable. That, and it is an effort to protect other people's right to clean air."

Paul McCarrier, member of the board of directors of Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine, said he would be against a marijuana-related ban that "impedes a patient's ability to medicate," but that "the town is fully within its rights" to impose restrictions on town-owned property.

As more towns in Maine move to enact similar medical marijuana smoking restrictions, McCarrier predicts "we'll also see more of the use of tinctures, edibles and oils," referring to the other methods of ingesting medical marijuana.

"Smoking is such an invasive thing, and we understand the medical marijuana law is pretty new and that municipalities have to adjust," he said.

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