BAR HARBOR —Unless someone forces a citizens’ initiative to allow marijuana businesses, it is unlikely that Bar Harbor will be participating in the retail marijuana trade.
During a special town marijuana workshop on Tuesday, Town Council members expressed a variety of reasons as to why it was not the right time to allow marijuana-related establishments in Bar Harbor.
Council members were aided in their discussion by Stephen Wagner, a member of Rudman Winchell’s municipal law practice group, who explained the opt–in process and took questions from council members, some of which will be answered at a later date.
When a municipality opts in to allow marijuana businesses, said Wagner, it has a broad range of options. Towns could default to the state guidelines or make their own rules specific to their charter and land use ordinances regarding the issuance of marijuana licenses.
For some, it came down to the fact that the town was already overburdened. “It’s simply an increase on our resources and our infrastructure here in town … so as far as I’m concerned, I would like to make a statement and officially opt out,” said Councilor Erin Cough.
Councilors Joe Minutolo, Cough and Jill Goldthwait said that because the town would not receive any revenue from marijuana sales, except for a potential increase in tourism, it was not an urgent issue to consider.
Though the council members were generally not in favor of allowing retail marijuana businesses, they briefly discussed what would happen if a potential citizens’ initiative was presented.
“While I don’t think that we’re in a position to decide tonight or even in the next year to opt in, I just want us to be in a position where when somebody does start the citizen process with the land use ordinance, and it is coming, there are several people who have said they want to do this and could come before the Planning Board and the council at any time and start that process, I just want us to have an idea of what we’re going to do when that happens,” said Councilor Matt Hochman.
Wagner explained that any successful changes to the land use ordinance brought by a citizens’ petition to allow marijuana businesses in the various town districts would constitute as opting in even if the council hadn’t made a separate authorization. He also explained that until the town does agree to opt in, it does not have to act on any applications that are brought to the town.
As the one–hour meeting adjourned, Hochman said he was happy with the discussion. “I certainly have a clearer idea of where we stand or where we need to go. I was hoping for a good discussion outside of a council meeting when we’re focused on so many other things,” he explained.
The Town Council will wait to hear Wagner’s answers to the questions they raised that were not answered during the meeting before making an action plan in the event that citizens come up with a petition.