Towns opt in on pot

By Rebecca Alley and Sarah Hinckley

ELLSWORTH — Four years after the state voted to legalize adult-use of recreational marijuana, Surry and Southwest Harbor have voted to allow retail marijuana businesses to operate in their towns. The two municipalities are the first in Hancock County to do so. 

The tight vote in Surry came down to 572 voters in favor of allowing retail operations to 504 voting against.

In Southwest Harbor, the margin was wider, with 654 voters approving the town’s Marijuana Ordinance and 396 voting against it. 

As previously reported by The American, the question made its way to the Surry ballot after resident Karl Holmes received enough signatures on a citizen’s petition. 

It was posed to Surry voters as “Do you want to allow the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing and sale of marijuana products subject to state regulation, taxation and town ordinances in Surry?” 

Towns in Maine must opt in to allowing marijuana businesses within their borders. Some municipalities have voted separately on each of the different categories of marijuana business — cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing and sale — as opposed to grouping all categories together for one vote. 

In Southwest Harbor, voters approved the Marijuana Ordinance, an 18-page document drafted by the town’s Marijuana Committee. The ordinance “provides for permitting, licensing and regulation of adult use and medical marijuana businesses and provides performance standards for adult use and medical marijuana businesses.”

That vote allows adult-use, also known as recreational, marijuana retail stores, testing, manufacturing and cultivation facilities to operate, as well as medical marijuana facilities. 

A limit of two of any one of these types of businesses is laid out in the newly adopted ordinance, with a specification of only two testing facilities in the town, whether they test medical and/or adult use marijuana. Following adoption of the ordinance, town officials will have 60 days, and can take up to 90 days, to accept applications for businesses, according to the ordinance, before beginning the process to consider them for licensure. 

All marijuana businesses must have a state provisional license prior to applying for a local license. In order to open a business to the public, both a state and local license need to be issued for operation. No marijuana businesses are allowed to operate within 1,000 feet of a school, which prohibits any marijuana businesses operating in the downtown area.

Towns in Maine that opt in to allowing marijuana businesses can default to state regulations governing the businesses or create regulations specific to their municipality. 

Legal retail sales in Maine began Oct. 9, with six stores accounting for the reported $94,643.38 in first-day sales, according to an Oct. 10 report in the Portland Press Herald.