SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Under state rules adopted earlier this year, businesses offering adult use, or recreational, marijuana can only open up shop in towns that “opt in” to hosting them.
On Tuesday, the Board of Selectmen here began to discuss what would be involved in allowing businesses that grow, test, sell, or manufacture products from marijuana for recreational use.
A joint meeting to learn more about state marijuana laws with selectmen and members of the Planning Board is tentatively set for Tuesday, Sept. 17.
Personal recreational use of marijuana has been legal in the state since the 2016 passage of the Marijuana Legalization Act. But until April of this year, state rules for licensing and taxation for recreational marijuana were not complete.
This April, the Office of Marijuana Policy released a 73-page draft of the proposed rules to govern “Maine’s Adult Use Marijuana Program.”
State officials contracted with a Colorado firm, Freedman & Koski, to write the rules.
Despite a few knowledgeable citizens coming to the select board meeting to help explain some of the state’s laws, little seemed clear after a lengthy discussion.
“It seemed like some of the concerns were things around security, discretion in terms of the way the product is packaged and presented and location, whether we wanted to limit that or not,” Selectman Kristin Hutchins said at the start of the discussion. “I’m trying to think of things the public would be concerned about.”
To date, 21 municipalities have “opted in” to allow marijuana being grown, sold, manufactured and/or tested for recreational purposes.
Selectmen asked questions about testing, extracting THC from marijuana, the difference between CBD, hemp and marijuana, testing facilities and the different rules surrounding the two different industries — medical and adult use/recreational.
“Everything must be tested to be sold recreationally, must,” Tyler Johnson said. “You could utilize a testing facility that’s not in this town to certify your products … I want everybody to consider the pitfalls of not regulating things at all. I think it’s important to consider safe access.”
“I’ve got some concerns for health on adult use edibles,” resident Mike Levesque said during the meeting. “I’ve heard a lot of nightmare stories with edibles. I think if the town does anything they’d want to look into that pretty seriously and see the health risks.”
In 2017, most of the towns on Mount Desert Island passed moratoria on retail marijuana businesses, social clubs, and manufacturing and testing facilities, since an earlier version of the state law required such an “opt out,” before the switch to the current “opt in” system.
Tremont went a step further and passed a new “Retail Marijuana Prohibition Ordinance.
Resident Tammy Smith, a medical marijuana caregiver, suggested having a lawyer attend the joint meeting. Other members of the public and selectmen also suggested having a law enforcement representative and a pharmacist or someone with experience in the medical field, as well as gathering information to pass on to the residents of the town.
“What we’re trying to do right now is to have this board have a better understanding,” said Lydia Goetze, who chairs the Board of Selectmen. “Ideally we want the Planning Board to have a better understanding so we can be clear what it is we might want to send out for a vote.”
Prescribing and limited possession of medical marijuana has been legal in Maine since 1999. Medical marijuana growers and providers, known as caregivers in the state’s rules, most often grow and sell marijuana in their homes.
Smith attended the meeting to share what she’s learned as a medical provider. The state’s medical marijuana law expressly allows caregivers to operate retail stores for the sale of harvested medical marijuana to qualified patients. Such retail stores are regulated separately from the Adult Use Marijuana Program, and separate from a town decision on whether or not to “opt in” to allowing adult use retail stores.
“It’s already being grown, used, bought, sold,” said Tammy Smith, who is a medical marijuana caregiver. “This way you guys can regulate it if you opt in. If you don’t opt in, it’s just going to be kind of in the shadows.”
Smith is a member of Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine. She and her adult daughter are both caregivers.
“Right now, my safety concern is for myself and my daughter,” said Smith. “When we meet patients we don’t allow them to come to our home. We don’t go to their home. We meet in the parking lot.
“By having a storefront or a place that you could do business you would have security for yourself and for your patients,” she added.
Smith said medical marijuana edibles are not as strictly regulated as are products for recreational use. But, there are some standards in place to protect the public.
“If you have a license you have to package it a certain way,” said Smith. “You can’t have any logos that would attract children.”