Marijuana straw poll set

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Residents will have two chances to weigh in and ask questions about marijuana businesses in the next two weeks.

First, a second public hearing on the topic of opening the town to retail stores, cultivation, manufacturing or testing facilities for adult use (recreational) and medical marijuana is set for Tuesday, Oct. 29 at 6 p.m. at the fire station.

Then when voters go to the polls Nov. 5 for the state election on bond questions (see related story, page 5), they will also receive a straw poll prepared by town officials to gauge residents’ interest in allowing some of the different types of marijuana businesses in the town.

The straw poll has five questions. It is a non-binding survey, meant to give selectmen an understanding of whether to pursue the subject further.

Off-year state elections like this one, if they don’t have hot-button issues like the Medicaid expansion decision in 2017, typically attract less than 20 percent of the town’s registered voters, according to Town Clerk Marilyn Lowell. Still, officials will hear from more residents this way than through public hearings alone.

Attorney Ben McCall of Portland-based law firm Jensen Baird Gardner & Henry, who spoke at a previous public hearing on the subject in September, is set to return for the Oct. 29 meeting.

Zoning, McCall told the group at the last session, is the best tool the town has in regulating where businesses can operate. Southwest Harbor is unusual in that it has mixed use in many of its zones.

Because the state laws now require towns to “opt-in” to allowing marijuana businesses, municipalities that choose not to take any action in regards to marijuana businesses are prohibiting them.

Town officials have been working to educate themselves and the public about the industry and information within the state’s recently released proposed rules to govern “Maine’s Adult Use Marijuana Program.”

Medical marijuana has been legal in the state since 1999. As of June, Maine medical marijuana can be sold to people with prescriptions visiting from 24 other states and Washington D.C.


Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

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

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