BAR HARBOR — Bar Harbor voters will once again have the chance to allow retail marijuana stores in town this November.
Following a public hearing on Aug. 16 about a citizens’ initiative permitting adult-use cannabis sales, the Town Council placed the two articles on the upcoming Town Meeting warrant.
The first amendment changes the land use ordinance to include marijuana retail stores as a new use allowed within four zoning districts: Downtown Village 1; Downtown Village 2; Bar Harbor Gateway; and Downtown Village Transitional.
The purpose of the second amendment is to license and regulate a maximum of two adult-use cannabis stores within Bar Harbor limits.
The initiatives come after voters shot down an original effort by the petitioners by a vote of 804-615 during the previous town meeting in June.
Hannah King, an attorney representing the petitioners, said the biggest concern the council had with the initial petition was that it combined the licensing and land use amendment into a single article.
“It was just a licensing ordinance that cross-referenced the land use ordinance, but there weren’t any changes to the [land use ordinance],” she said. “There was no proposal to create a new use for marijuana retail separate and apart from general retail.”
A cannabis committee, headed by Derrick Harrison, who operates Island Oasis, a medical marijuana business in town, initiated the new proposals through a citizens’ petition process for a second time.
This time the campaign is much more pared down and limits recreational marijuana retail zoning to four districts instead of the original 26.
Harrison stated that throughout the last eight years of operation, he’s seen how many people are restricted from purchasing “alternative medicine” at his shop because they’re unable to obtain a Maine Medical Marijuana Card due to their occupation or lack of qualifying conditions.
“Me moving forward in my career was to have an adult-use marijuana shop because it opens it up for everybody,” Harrison said.
Now that Harrison’s committee has fixed those loopholes, it’s banking on a positive recommendation from the council, Warrant Committee and town at the ballot box.
If the initiative were to pass, a potential retailer would still need site approval from the Planning Board and state licensing before setting up shop. State law also prohibits an adult-use cannabis store from being within 1,000 feet of a school zone.
“There’s significant and robust regulation of adult-use marijuana retail stores under state law and all retail marijuana stores have to have local approval and state license before they can operate,” King said.