Clearing up questions on marijuana

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Residents who attended a public meeting about the state’s laws regarding marijuana had the opportunity to get some questions and concerns answered by selectmen and a municipal attorney on Tuesday night.

Questions included whether it’s legal to use marijuana in public and on rental properties, whether having businesses in town would require more police, who regulates businesses not adhering to the law, whether the town can set limits on which products will be sold and whether delivery of marijuana products is legal.

Attorney Ben McCall, from Portland law firm Jensen Baird Gardner & Henry told the group delivery of marijuana products is not legal in the state.

One woman voiced concern that there is no test available for police to assess drivers for levels of THC in their system while operating a vehicle. Tyler Johnson, who has been present at recent meetings and the public gatherings to provide information about marijuana, explained there are ways police can test drivers for intoxication from any substance.

“I would say driving under the influence of anything is already quite an issue in this state, in addition to alcohol,” said Selectmen Chair Lydia Goetze. “If people are driving irresponsibly the police can stop them. They can do a bunch of things to see if they need to look further.”

One man asked the board why Southwest Harbor was talking about marijuana businesses opening in the town so early if other towns in Hancock County weren’t engaging in that conversation. “There’s no real financial benefit for the town of Southwest Harbor,” he added.

McCall confirmed that towns will not receive any financial benefits from hosting businesses, but said that subject is still being considered at the state level.

Selectmen and Johnson both said it could be beneficial to have the product regulated within the town as opposed continuing to have it available on the black market.

“It’s already here,” said Johnson who is an advocate for regulation and education on the subject. “It’s not going away.”

Right now, town officials are looking for feedback from the public, first and foremost.

“We do need the information to help decide what the town wants,” said Donahue.

Straw poll

Selectmen asked the 15 people in attendance to encourage their friends and family to vote next Tuesday.

Along with the state ballot, voters will be presented with a straw poll created by town officials that asks whether people are interested in having marijuana businesses in the town. The straw poll is a non-binding document meant to gather information regarding resident interest on the subject.

“I think it’s important to understand what the citizenry is interested in when it comes to this,” said Select Board Chair Lydia Goetze at the meeting.

With results from the straw poll, selectmen will determine whether to exert further energy on the subject of adult use and/or medical marijuana businesses operating in the town.

While adult use, also referred to as recreational, marijuana was legalized by a citizen initiative vote in 2016, the state has not yet begun to issue licenses to operate businesses. Maine towns can opt in to allow one or all four types of adult use marijuana businesses to operate, which include retail establishments and/or cultivation, manufacturing and testing facilities.

Towns are required to opt in by a vote of its residents before any adult use marijuana businesses can open and operate within town limits.

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.

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