SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Concerned about an expensive license fee being a deterrent for new business owners, selectmen set the town’s fee for operating a marijuana business at $500.
According to the town’s recently adopted Marijuana Ordinance, as many as 10 marijuana businesses, both adult use and medical, can operate within the town. There is a limit of two of each type of business, which includes retail, cultivation, manufacturing and testing.
In an initial conversation during the Nov. 17 Board of Selectmen meeting, regarding the fee structure for licenses, Town Manager Justin VanDongen recommended a fee of $2,500 to offset any start-up costs the town anticipates incurring.
During that meeting, members of the board asked to see a breakdown of possible expenses in order to decide on a final license fee amount. They also voted unanimously to have the town’s marijuana business application fee be equivalent to that of a local liquor license application.
At the Nov. 24 meeting, board member Carolyn Ball presented a spreadsheet that included the cost of training officers within the police department, work by office staff to review applications and other paperwork, as well as other anticipated costs at a proposed price tag of approximately $3,800.
“This number is eye-popping and needs to be recovered over time,” said Board of Selectmen Chairman Kristin Hutchins. “I’m concerned about the onus on these new businesses.”
Selectman George Jellison told the other members of the board he didn’t think having the businesses in town would be an enforcement issue for the police department. He also said, if it was, an amount for training should be included in the police department’s budget during budget time.
“I think that all officers should be trained,” said Selectman Chad Terry. “I’m not saying it should be the store’s responsibility. It should be the responsibility of the taxpayer.”
Ball made a motion to make the license fee $500. Jellison asked if that was for all types of marijuana businesses.
“I want more money,” said Ball, adding that it was for all of the businesses. “I think this is pitiful.”
VanDongen had told the board in their initial conversation regarding marijuana fees that the average cost for a license in most municipalities is $5,000 and the most expensive one he had seen was $10,000.
All five members of the Board of Selectmen voted in favor of Ball’s motion.
“We’ve stumbled into a unanimous vote,” said Hutchins. “If we’re unhappy, we can revisit it, but we’ve got a place to start.”
Selectmen have set their meeting on Jan. 26 as the first one in which applications for marijuana businesses in the town are scheduled to be reviewed.
“I think we’re the least expensive license that I’ve seen,” said VanDongen after the vote.