More than 90 percent of cities in Maine still don’t allow the sale of recreational marijuana

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More than 90 percent of cities in Maine still do not allow recreational marijuana stores, even though sales in the industry have been steadily growing since their inception almost a year ago.

While Brewer and Orono are both on their way to licensing recreational cannabis stores very soon, they will only join three other communities in Penobscot County that allow such stores – Bangor, Medway, and tiny Stacyville with just 380 residents. . Etna allows growth operations but not retail stores.

Statewide, only 47 of Maine’s roughly 500 cities and plantations have chosen to license recreational marijuana retailers. Less than a third of Maine residents, just 29 percent, live in these communities, although many more live near them, according to The data from the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy and the 2020 US Census.

The small number of cities allowing sales presents an obstacle to the growth of the industry, which has only been able to sell recreational weed since last October and posted its highest sales figure to date, 10, $ 2 million, in August. A cannabis industry group has acknowledged the slow growth of cities that adhere to licensed retail stores.

Part of the resistance to allowing marijuana stores comes from the association of many Mainers’ marijuana with harder drugs that have ravaged their communities, including opioids and methamphetamine. This association became clear over the summer when Glenburn town planning council considered a greenhouse that would grow medical marijuana, an operation that municipalities cannot deny under state law. .

Rather than opting for recreational selling, several communities have passed ordinances prohibiting the development of retail marijuana stores, including Bradford, Corinne, Corinth, Dixmont, Glenburn and Millinocket.

Many of these bans came in the years after the drug was legalized by voters in Maine for recreational purposes, including the consumption of Carmel. prohibition The city’s ban came into effect in 2017 after Penobscot County Sheriff Troy Morton recommended it to the city’s board of directors in December 2016, saying there would be “Unforeseen circumstances” arising from legalization of marijuana, according to city minutes.

While the referendum to legalize marijuana narrowly passed in Maine in 2016, it was without the help of Penobscot County: 54% of the county’s residents voted no. Only Bangor, Lakeville, Maxfield, Old Town, Orono and Webster Plantation favored the measure.

Dover-Foxcroft, in neighboring Piscataquis County, also voted no in the referendum.

Five years later, the question of bringing hobby shops to the city will be posed to voters in November, said Stephen Grammont, a member of the board of directors. The issue was raised as a city committee was considering reworking its zoning and land use ordinances, he said.

“The measure on the ballot is to see if people really want the activity,” Grammont said.

Although the referendum is not officially binding, the city’s board will be “obliged” to follow its findings, Grammont said.

Dover-Foxcroft is the largest city in Maine’s most conservative county. Still, he said, it was not clear what residents thought about marijuana.

“What’s strange about Maine is that it’s conservative but also libertarian,” said Grammont, who noted that a wide range of political movements had flourished in Maine, from temperance movement gun rights.

For many communities, it took a retail store proposal to persuade them to join. Medway, which legalized hobby shops by municipal vote in March 2020, owns one recreational marijuana store and is bound to have another if residents vote to allow medical care. stores later this month, City Clerk Katherine Lee said.

More cities could register over time if they receive similar requests, provided those requests are “economically feasible,” she said.

As Maine’s marijuana industry looks to grow, getting more cities to join is critical, said Joel Pepin, president of the Maine Cannabis Industry Association. Although he noted that Brewer had recently taken the necessary steps to enroll, the movement had been quite slow statewide, he said.

Fear of the unknown is a big reason, Pepin said. Also, he said, some municipalities might not see much for them. Retail store sales and excise taxes go entirely to the state rather than to the communities in which they are located.

While he wants to see more towns, cities and plantations registering, he was optimistic about how the recreational industry had developed since sales began in October. He noted that prices, once a problem for the new industry, have come down.

“It takes time for the stigma to change, and it takes time for operators to get into and participate in the market,” Pepin said. “But I mean, the market has been going for a year now and it seems to have made huge strides already.”

Stacyville approved its current marijuana policies at city meetings in March and August 2019.

Selected board member Alvin Thériault said there was no opposition. Residents were drawn to the economic outlook: A large-scale producer had considered doing business in Stacyville, but then decided not to do so due to state regulations, Thériault said.

“We have no industry here. We have nothing, ”said Thériault. “So why not?”

One store has since opened in Stacyville – The Green Moose Smoke Shop – although it only sells products to people enrolled in Maine’s medical marijuana program.

Thériault, who used to encounter marijuana when it was illegal during her decades as a game warden, said people would smoke marijuana whether communities allow it to be sold or not.

“It’s over there,” Thériault said. “You might as well collect taxes on that.”


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