Commercial pot ban squeaks by



TREMONT – Voters at the polls Tuesday narrowly approved an ordinance banning commercial marijuana businesses in the town.

The marijuana ordinance passed 225-218, a seven-vote margin, and was one of four local issues on the ballot.

Voters overwhelmingly gave their support to the three other issues.

A 180-day moratorium on cruise ship activities passed 356-87. An amended harbor ordinance carried 299-111 and a rewrite of the wharf and facilities ordinance was approved 283-99.

The marijuana ordinance bans retail marijuana stores, cultivation facilities, facilities that manufacture marijuana products, testing facilities and social clubs in the town. It also prohibits a person or organization from developing or operating “a business that engages in retail or wholesale sales of a retail marijuana product” as defined by state law. The ordinance does not apply to medical marijuana.

Selectmen in September voted 3-2 to put the question before voters after Town Manager Dana Reed suggested that the town’s zoning ordinances were not adequate to address commercial marijuana businesses made possible by a statewide vote last fall to legalize the drug.

The cruise ship moratorium was initiated in response to a cruise ship company’s planned stop in Southwest Harbor and was seen as a proactive measure; no such visits have been proposed. Tremont’s harbor committee requested that selectmen put the moratorium before voters after Southwest Harbor residents in September voted to impose a moratorium on cruise ships in that town. The moratorium in Tremont applies to any new cruise ship activity “including, but not limited to, the loading or off-loading of 50 or more passengers from vessels in the town.”

Voters rejected an amended harbor management ordinance at the May annual town meeting after it was pointed out that one of the changes inadvertently prohibited commercial fishing vessels from using one of the mooring pools in Bass Harbor. The version approved Tuesday corrects this oversight.

The major changes in the wharf and facilities ordinance adopted Tuesday involve the fee structure for permits for use of the Bernard Wharf. Nonresident fees had been higher than fees of residents. That two-tiered system was eliminated after town officials were made aware that federal regulations tied to the dredging of Bass Harbor required fees to be set equally.

As approved, the ordinance requires owners of vessels up to 50 feet in length to pay $14.50 per foot of length for a permit to use the Bernard facility. Owners of vessels larger than 50 feet will pay $27 per foot. The fee for nonresidents had been twice that per foot as for residents.

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