Marijuana plants ISLANDER FILE PHOTO

Pot, cruise ship ordinances debated



TREMONT — The adage “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire” didn’t hold up at a public hearing Monday on a proposed ban on commercial marijuana sales in the town. That was in contrast to a Sept. 18 public hearing where both sides of the issue were hotly debated.

The public hearings were held in advance of the Nov. 7 vote on a proposed retail marijuana prohibition ordinance. Also on the ballot are a moratorium on cruise ships, a new wharf and facilities ordinance and an amendment to the harbor ordinance.

If voters approve the marijuana ordinance, it would ban retail marijuana stores, cultivation facilities, facilities that manufacture marijuana products, testing facilities and social clubs in the town. It also would prohibit a person or organization from developing or operating “a business that engages in retail or wholesale sales of a retail marijuana product” as defined by state law. The ordinance would not apply to medical marijuana.

One woman, who said she became aware of the proposed ordinance only recently, asked why the vote is on a ban instead of a moratorium as other communities have enacted or considered.

Town Manager Dana Reed explained that selectmen considered three options in August: a ban, a moratorium and doing nothing.

“It was the feeling of the board that they wanted a ban,” Reed said.

Reed said the ban, if adopted, could be repealed at a later date by a vote at a town meeting.

Asked about the process once the ban was in effect, Reed said, “Realistically, something like that would start with the Planning Board.” Any ordinance changes relating to the marijuana ban would need voter approval before going into effect.

Another resident, Donna Alexander, said she was at the first hearing and disagreed with comments made there comparing retail marijuana sales with the sale of alcohol.

“Two wrongs don’t make a right,” she argued.

Wanda Ellis said she had concerns about the message retail marijuana would send to young people. If marijuana use is encouraged, she continued, many young people will not be able to work at the many businesses that test employees for drugs.

The woman who asked about a ban instead of a moratorium said the town has the opportunity to regulate commercial marijuana in a manner beneficial to the town.

“To ban it … doesn’t make much sense to me,” she said. “It’s a whole potential industry that can employ a lot of people.”

The marijuana ordinance hearing lasted less than 15 minutes.

The only public comments at the three other public hearings Monday came during the cruise ship moratorium hearing.

A resident asked if a cruise ship visit was in the works, or is the town being proactive?

“Proactive,” Reed responded, “No one is proposing anything now.”

If adopted, the moratorium would apply to any new cruise ship activity “including, but not limited to, the loading or off-loading of 50 or more passengers from vessels in the town.”

There were no comments on the harbor management ordinance and wharf and facilities ordinance.

The amended harbor management ordinance going before voters corrects a mistake in a version that was on the annual town meeting warrant in May. Voters turned down adoption after it was pointed out that one of the changes inadvertently prohibited commercial fishing vessels from using the A mooring pool in Bass Harbor.

The proposed wharf and facilities ordinance has changes to set equal fees for residents and nonresidents as required by federal regulations tied to the dredging of Bass Harbor.

 

 

 

Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Mark Good

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