SOUTHWEST HARBOR — As many people showed up to ask questions or comment at a public hearing Tuesday regarding a proposed marijuana ordinance as there were on the panel before them.
In November, voters will be asked if they would like the town to opt in to allow marijuana businesses to operate within the town. Maine is an opt-in state; towns that take no action default to not allowing marijuana businesses to operate.
Also on the ballot is the question of whether to approve a proposed marijuana ordinance drafted by a committee that outlines some stricter regulations than the state currently has in place.
Four members of the public attended the hearing at the firehouse and two more joined via Zoom. Four members of the Marijuana Committee, including Board of Selectmen Chairman Kristin Hutchins, and two other members of the board, as well as Town Manager Justin VanDongen attended to answer questions about the proposed ordinance. After a short discussion, the hearing ended around 7:15 p.m.
A second joint public hearing with the Board of Selectmen and Planning Board is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 17, also at the firehouse. Proposed Land Use Ordinance aspects of the draft marijuana ordinance will be up for discussion with both boards.
Residents must vote in favor of opting in to having marijuana businesses operate in the town before any proposed ordinance can be enacted. A vote to opt in is a vote in favor of all marijuana businesses with a few exceptions being allowed to operate.
“Dispensaries are expressly prohibited in this town,” marijuana committee member Dick Diamond pointed out at the hearing, referring to medical marijuana dispensaries.
Natasha Johnson, also a member of the committee, added that social clubs, a place where people 21 years and older can gather to smoke or ingest marijuana, are prohibited throughout the state.
Businesses that would be allowed include cultivation facilities, testing facilities and manufacturing facilities for both medical and adult use marijuana, adult use/recreational retail stores and medical marijuana caregiver retail stores.
Franklin is the only town in Hancock County that have opted in for marijuana businesses at this time, approving medical marijuana retail stores, testing and manufacturing facilities. So far, the state has issued 12 licenses for adult use/recreational marijuana businesses, including retail stores in Bangor, Newry, Northport and two in South Portland, as well as five recreational grows, five manufacturing facilities and one testing lab. Sales are scheduled to commence in October.
A database of state licenses for adult use marijuana is available at maine.gov/dafs/omp/open-data/adult-use.
Correction: The original version of this story contained an error. The town of Franklin voted to opt in for three types of medical marijuana businesses on Sept. 10.