BAR HARBOR — Backers of a planned recreational retail cannabis shop are collecting signatures for a citizens’ initiative that would create an ordinance allowing for two adult-use stores in town.
Love ME Cannabis, which hopes to open a shop in town in the future, has about half of the 300 signatures from Bar Harbor residents needed to move forward with the proposed ordinance. The effort is being funded by the owner of Tree of Life Day Spa, Salon NaturELLES and Acadia School of Massage, said Philip Payne, the general manager of the three businesses.
Maine legalized cannabis in 2016, with 59 percent of Bar Harbor residents voting in favor of legalization. Medical sales are currently legal in town, but the municipality would need to “opt in” if it wanted to allow for recreational sales.
Under the ordinance drawn up by Love ME Cannabis, businesses would need to get a license from the town, for which there would be only two.
The businesses would only be able to operate in parts of town where retail sales are currently allowed but would not be allowed within 1,000 feet of the property line of a school or 500 feet of the College of the Atlantic campus, Mount Desert Island Hospital, day cares, houses of worship and recreational areas for children.
Love ME Cannabis’s ordinance also would restrict the hours of business between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. and have several security measures in place.
Payne said the regulations were modeled after the state’s and those in surrounding communities, including Southwest Harbor, which recently opened the island’s first recreational shop.
He hoped that the committee set up behind the petition would be able to collect enough signatures by the end of the month to kick off the process and possibly get before voters in November. If not, the company would continue to push on.
“We’re here for the long haul,” he said. “If it doesn’t get in front of the voters this November, we’ll just keep trucking.”
To get a citizen’s initiative before the Town Council, the group needs to create a committee and submit the proposed ordinance to the town clerk. Love ME Cannabis has done that and now must get signatures equaling 10 percent of the total number of voters who voted in the last gubernatorial election. After those signatures are collected, they are turned in to the town clerk, who then certifies them. Following certification, the Town Council has 30 days to hold a public hearing on the initiative. The council can approve the ordinance, but if it fails to adopt the proposal, then the ordinance will be submitted to the voters.
Love ME Cannabis does not have a planned location but did hope to be one of the two businesses allowed to open if the ordinance passes.
“We’re taking it one step at a time here,” Payne said.
In addition to providing a service to visitors and locals alike, Payne said the town would benefit from having more year-round businesses, as well as additional tax revenues.
“We would be offering more year-round employment by opening in Bar Harbor and those employees would contribute to the economy of the town by working, shopping and hopefully living here,” Payne said. “In addition, the sales tax revenue from all businesses in the town are shared with the municipality each year.”
Editor’s note: Philip Payne is the husband of a Mount Desert Islander employee.