If town opts in, only two of each business would be allowed

SOUTHWEST HARBOR–It is still unclear when residents of this town will be able to vote whether or not they want to opt in on marijuana businesses, but an ordinance that sets local parameters has been drafted in the case they do. 

A limit of two licenses for any of the business categories, a yearly license renewal requirement and a list of qualifiers for merit-based criteria are all part of the 16-page document crafted in less than three months by an appointed Marijuana Committee.  

In discussions earlier this year, selectmen were trying to decide if the decision to opt in to having marijuana businesses in the town would go before voters at the annual town meeting, originally set for May. Due to the state of emergency declared by Governor Janet Mills, a date for the annual town meeting has yet to be set. Most recently, selectmen voted to host a town meeting in conjunction with the state’s primary election, which has been postponed to July.  

During their April 7 meeting via Zoom, members of the board of selectmen unanimously agreed that a vote on whether the town will opt in to having marijuana businesses should be postponed until November. That decision was based not only on the uncertainty of when a town meeting will take place, but also on the fact the board needs to host at least one public hearing prior to the vote to discuss the proposed ordinance, and provide more public education regarding state laws for adult use and medical marijuana businesses.  

There are five different options for marijuana business licenses laid out in the drafted ordinance. Only two licenses for each category are being proposed, and one company, or licensee, cannot hold both licenses in any one category, according to the proposed language. Categories for business licenses include: adult use retail store, adult use cultivation facility, adult use or medical manufacturing facility, medical marijuana retail store and medical or adult use testing facility. According to the ordinance language, a testing facility can test both medical and adult use marijuana products if it holds a license for each.  

The town’s board of selectmen has been designated as the licensing authority for the town, even though plans for facilities must undergo planning board review.  

merit-based criteria is outlined as the qualifying measure for those seeking business licenses. Those seeking a license must be a resident of the state of Maine; additional points are given based on being a resident of Hancock County and Southwest Harbor.  

Merit points can also be earned by showing proof of participating in marijuana education classes provided by the state, up to five years of relative business experience and a lack of outstanding taxes or liens due in Southwest Harbor. 

If there are multiple candidates that qualify for a license with a high merit-based criteria score, a lottery will take place for those participants to decide the two candidates per category. 

All operations, including cultivation of marijuana, must take place indoors and include a diagram of the facility with plans for odor control, locked trash containers and 24-hour video surveillance.  

Public access to any licensed businesses is limited to the hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Employees and management can work outside of these hours, according to the ordinance.  

Similar to state and local requirements for liquor licenses, these marijuana business licenses will be reviewed for renewal each year. Any reports to town officials, including the police department, regarding the business during the previous year will be part of the review process.  

State rules require businesses be located at least 1,000 feet, as the crow flies, from the property lines of a public or private school (kindergarten – grade 12) and the town’s proposed ordinance states this same requirement.  

According to the ordinance, there is no drive-through or delivery services of product allowed, except in the case of a registered medical marijuana caregiver who is allowed to deliver product to a customer.  

Business licenses cannot be grandfathered or given away if a business closes or changes ownership. If a license becomes available for any of the five marijuana business options, the application process begins all over again.   

In all cases, state law requirements surrounding marijuana businesses are applicable. If local and state guidelines are in any way conflicting, the more stringent requirement stands, according to the proposed ordinance language.  

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

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

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