Viewpoint: Retail marijuana will benefit Bar Harbor 

By Derrick Sekulich 

Our citizens’ petition committee is grateful that the Town Council has sent the ordinance for licensing of retail marijuana stores to the voters this June. Retail marijuana stores will offer good paying, year-round employment for our community and expand year-round business opportunities in Bar Harbor for a legal product that is widely consumed in town.  

The Town Council was first approached to opt-in to retail marijuana sales in September 2020. Because of pressing matters, they were not able to take action or work with us on this issue at the time, which is why we sponsored this ordinance that was initiated by the citizens of Bar Harbor. In December 2021, the Town Council recognized the Certificate of Sufficiency, acknowledging that the petition had support from enough voters. They held public hearings in January where members of our petition committee and other interested parties requested the Town Council place the ordinance on the next town warrant for the voters to have the opportunity vote on the decision to allow recreational marijuana retail stores to operate in the retail districts of Bar Harbor. Acting on the Town Manager’s recommendation, the Bar Harbor Town Council did indeed vote to place the ordinance on the June 14 town meeting warrant.  

Now that the ordinance is in the voters’ hands, we would like the opportunity to provide a brief summary of the highlights of the ordinance. The ordinance specifically will: 

  1. Follow all the state licensing requirements, which makes retail marijuana sales the most restricted substance sold in the state. To enter the establishment, you will need to show proof of age and then you will be able to buy a product that has been thoroughly tested and monitored with the safety of the consumer in mind. 
  1. Limit the establishment of retail marijuana stores to only TWO stores in Bar Harbor in comparison to the numerous places to buy alcohol and tobacco. 
  1. Acknowledge that the retail stores will be restricted to the areas that the town has already deemed appropriate for retail stores as an allowed use under the existing Land Use ordinance.  
  1. Further restrict the licensed locations to greater than 1,000 feet away from public or private schools and greater than 500 feet to religious, daycare and recreational areas. As many who signed the petition noted, these specific limitations on location are far more restrictive than the state regulations.  

One concern that has been expressed by the town attorney and created confusion among the Town Council members related to this petition deals with changes to the land use ordinance. In fact, the petition language does not amend the land use ordinance, because there was no need to amend it. Marijuana retail stores clearly fall within the existing definition of retail establishment: “[a]ny business, housed in a permanent structure, engaged primarily in the sale of goods and services to the ultimate consumer for direct consumption or use but not for resale.” The cross-reference to the land use ordinance in the petition was simply intended to make clear that marijuana retail stores are retail establishments and, thus, to be entitled to a license, the prospective store must be located in a zone where retail establishments are permitted. The land use ordinance remains unchanged. 

We look forward to the voters’ support on this initiative and to continue to engage collaboratively with the Town Council and staff for the best interest of the voters and town.  

Derrick Sekulich is a resident of Bar Harbor. 

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