BAR HARBOR — A citizens’ committee aimed at allowing two retail marijuana shops in town is hoping that the second time’s a charm.
After their first initiative was voted down at the Town Meeting in June, this group of motivated cannabis advocates has teed up two more ordinances for the November election. This time, the proposed petitions target licensing and land use workarounds in two separate articles but limit the retail zoning districts to five instead of the original 26.
The first new proposal would modify the town’s land use ordinance to allow retail marijuana sales in five districts, including downtown. The second creates a new ordinance to license marijuana stores in Bar Harbor.
One of the people backing the effort, Philip Payne, general manager of Tree of Life Day Spa, said the Town Council was unwilling to support the last campaign because of a legal technicality combining the licensing and zoning language into one initiative.
“A lot of the voters voted against it because that’s what the Town Council and the Warrant Committee advised,” Payne said.
Due to these new revisions, Payne is confident the residents — and council — will embrace the opening of Hancock County’s second retail cannabis shop.
Town Manager Kevin Sutherland said the council could issue the license, but for the initiative to pass muster the community must first approve it at the ballot box.
“We know that the majority of people (in town) support retail marijuana,” Payne said.
He points to a 2016 statistic to back up his claim. That year, 59 percent of Bar Harbor voters came out in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana.
Although statewide legalization of recreational cannabis passed in 2016, municipalities still have to “opt in” to allow adult-use sales. Now it’s just a matter of those same voters showing up to the polls this November.
Derrick Harrison, formerly known as Sekulich, is heading the petitioners committee behind the initiatives. Harrison has been a medical marijuana caregiver in Bar Harbor since 2014.
He said for those seeking out the alternative medicine there are many hoops to jump through to gain access to a medical marijuana card. A recreational store in town would streamline that roundabout process while giving availability to others who may use it as their form of relaxation after work.
Harrison is looking to open one shop in town, but the option for another business to operate under the second license is on the table.
“We’re not trying to be a monopoly,” Harrison said. “We would totally accept it if somebody wanted to do the paperwork to get themselves in there too.”
Bringing an adult-use industry to town would open up another avenue for a business to flourish beyond the tourist season, Payne noted.
“I see the benefits as another year-round business, employing people in the community and offering year-round services,” Payne said. “We frankly don’t have enough of that in town.”
The Town Council is holding a public hearing on Aug. 16 during its regularly scheduled meeting to hear comments on the proposed ordinances.
Editor’s note: Philip Payne is the husband of a Mount Desert Islander employee.