SOUTHWEST HARBOR — The Southwest Harbor Board of Selectmen approved an application for the town’s first marijuana business at a public hearing on Tuesday.
Meristem LLC submitted the application for a retail adult–use marijuana store located at 11 Seal Cove Road. Operation of the store cannot begin until there is site plan review application approval from the town’s Planning Board, and no date has yet been set for that. Also, a copy of the business’s state license needs to be clearly displayed at the business, which is not allowed to operate anywhere other than the noted address. While in operation, the business must operate in compliance with state statutes and regulations and only be open for business within the hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Owners are also prohibited from using inherently hazardous substances.
Natasha and Tyler Johnson are the owners behind the business set to open inside a portion of what is now Liquor Locker at the Southwest Harbor Shoppes on Seal Cove Road. There will be separate entrances into each business and no shared public space between the two stores.
While the application review process looked easy, with the Board of Selectmen approving the application after its first review and then holding a public hearing without any public protest, Natasha Johnson said it hasn’t been without due process. She and Tyler served on the town’s Marijuana Committee that was responsible for creating a Marijuana Ordinance that was approved by voters at the election in November.
“There’s a lot of steps,” said Natasha in a conversation with the Islander. “The entire process that was put before the Board of Selectmen has been very intricate by design to help with the implementation of the new industry to make sure it is done responsibly.”
Before presenting an application to the board, the Johnsons had to apply for a provisional license with the state. With that in hand, they could apply with the town to operate a marijuana business. Once the business application has passed through the Board of Selectmen and Planning Board processes, the couple will be able to go back to the state to receive their license to operate.
“It’s a new industry and a new process for all of us,” said Natasha, referring to the town’s procedure. “We’re all learning it together.”
When voters approved the ordinance, they approved having up to two of each marijuana business in town, adult–use retail store, adult–use cultivation, adult–use/medical testing facility, adult–use/medical manufacturing facility and caregiver storefront.
According to Natasha, the couple’s goal is to be able to open for business this season, if all goes well. In addition to the application process, they are still working on following state guidelines for designing their space. There are strict rules for separation of the public from the product that is being sold and making sure no one can enter without providing an ID that proves they are at least 21 years of age.
“I feel like we have finished one chapter and we’re starting another one,” said Natasha.