Marijuana retail store application moves forward

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — As they continue to work out the procedural details of granting a local license to operate a marijuana retail store, members of the Board of Selectmen unanimously agreed on Tuesday night that the first application to go before the town was complete. 

Next, a public hearing regarding the business is scheduled to take place on March 23. After the public hearing, the application is slated to go before the Planning Board in order to determine its compliance with the town’s land use ordinance. 

With attorney Ben McCall in attendance, the Board of Selectmen reviewed the nearly 50-page application from MeristemLLC in accordance with the Marijuana Ordinance approved last fall by voters. There was little question it would be found complete, as the business owners are Tyler and Natasha Johnson, who both served on the committee that created the ordinance for the town. 

“All you’re determining is whether you have all the information you need and that the ordinance requires you to have,” McCall said to the board during the meeting.  

The couple is applying to operate a retail marijuana store within a section of The Liquor Locker space at 11 Seal Cove Road. That business has been owned and operated by Tyler Johnson’s family for several decades, with him managing it for the last 19 years. There will be no overlap of the two businesses; each will have its own entrance and separate spaces from which to operate.  

Last fall, when residents of Southwest Harbor and Surry voted to opt in to permit marijuana businesses, they were the first towns in Hancock County to do so. By approving the ordinance, Southwest Harbor voters agreed to allow as many as two manufacturing, cultivation, retail and testing facilities to operate in the town.  A provisional license from the state is required in order to inquire at the local level to operate an adultuse (recreationalmarijuana business.  

Within the 18-page Marijuana Ordinance is a merit system for applicants based on their residency in the town, county and/or state, as well as a request for marijuana training. In their application, the Johnsons, residents of Southwest Harbor, each presented certificates from training programs hosted by the Maine Municipal Association and the state’s Office of Marijuana Policy. They also submitted an agreement with their landlord who gave his consent to operate the business within the space in the Seal Cove Shoppes on Seal Cove Road and a one-year lease to do so. 

Plans for the business include an entrance into the space where customers will be required to show ID before entering the retail space. In order to purchase adultuse marijuana legally, a person must be 21 years of age or older. In total, Tyler Johnson estimates the space will be less than 350 square feet. 

“We’ll have a buzz lock that will allow them to come into the next area,” he said, noting there will be cameras throughout the space. “We’re starting out really small. We’re designing this based on COVID (restrictions).” 

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

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

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