Retail marijuana discussion tees up in council chambers

BAR HARBOR—After the expiration of a moratorium on marijuana businesses, and changes to state law that govern how they are permitted, a request to locate a retail adult-use establishment has pushed the topic once again to the Town Council.  

While voters statewide approved the legalization of an adult-use recreational marijuana market in 2016, it finally came online this week as the first wave of license holders opened their doors to would-be consumers. For those wishing to open a retail store, grow facility or testing lab, two things have to come together: state and local approval. Under state law marijuana businesses are prohibited from opening in cities or towns unless a municipality allows it. Bar Harbor has yet to consider an opt-in measure, but an inquiry before the Town Council last week may force councilors to consider it in the coming months. 

A letter to the town planners from Sheryl DeWalt, owner of the Tree of Life Day Spa, Acadia School of Massage and Salon NaturELLES, asked about the steps necessary to gain local approval for a retail shop located at 114 Cottage Street. As councilors considered whether or not to even discuss the request, they did voice concern that the location was too close to an elementary school and day care, which would not be permitted under state law.  

DeWalt currently has a conditional permit from the state to open a retail establishment, which is not tied to a particular location. As part of the permitting process, local approval from a municipality is required before the state will issue a final permit.  

Councilors declined to speak specifically about DeWalt’s request and did not give her the opportunity to speak, but instead spent time discussing what the next steps for the town would be.  

Opting in would require a council vote but deciding where such an establishment could be located would require changes to the town’s Land Use Ordinance, which would then require a town-wide vote. “How do we talk about this in the right order?” asked councilor Val Peacock. The sentiment was echoed by most councilors, who indicated they were concerned about following the proper process, even if they were generally open to allowing such establishments to operate in town. 

At the end of a roughly halfhour discussion, the councilors, by a vote of 6-1 (Friedmann), instructed the town manager to create a package of materials that would include any past votes and council discussions regarding this subject, as well as a timeline for approval and implementation of retail marijuana businesses in town, before considering any such applications 

Ninah Rein

Ninah Rein

Writer at Mount Desert Islander
Ninah Rein, an MDI native, covers news and features in the Bar Harbor area. She is glad to be back in Maine after earning a bachelor's degree in San Diego from the University of California.
Ninah Rein

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