Despite voter approval, Surry not yet ready for marijuana businesses

SURRY — While voters here on Nov. 3 said “yes” to allowing recreational marijuana businesses in town, it will be a while before local regulations have been amended to allow that industry to occur.

Residents voted 572-504 to allow the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing, and sale of marijuana products subject to state regulation, taxation and town ordinances in Surry.

“We have an ordinance in place that will be amended once we write a new ordinance,” said Surry Selectman Betsy Armstrong. Unlike Southwest Harbor, Surry is not ready for business yet, she added.

Southwest Harbor voters on Nov. 3 voted 654-396 to allow marijuana businesses in town. The town already has an ordinance in place.

Here’s a bit of cannabis backstory: Maine voters in a 2016 statewide referendum approved the legalization of retail marijuana, including stores and growing facilities. The Maine Office of Marijuana Policy issued the first licenses for recreational cannabis businesses in September and retail sales began Oct. 9.

Armstrong said three years ago the town of Surry voted against “commercial cannabis,” which had the effect of putting into place ordinances that banned any marijuana commercial activity in the Surry town limits.

Those ordinances, five in total, according to Surry Planning Board Chairman Bill Barker, were signed by the Board of Selectmen on Nov. 7, 2017. That was the first selectmen’s meeting after the 2017 referendum.

Barker said some of the Planning Board members have already begun looking at ordinances in other municipalities “to get us started in the right direction.”

“The PB [Planning Board] will need to draft ordinances for this activity that was allowed by vote of the governing body,” Barker said. “This activity probably should only be allowed within certain zones/ areas of the town.” So, no one will be setting up shop next to the Surry Elementary School, for example.

“We’re not in a big rush,” Armstrong said, noting that municipalities do not get the revenue that were once anticipated from allowing cannabis businesses.

“Right now, nothing is happening fast anyway,” said Armstrong, in a nod to the pandemic.

Jennifer Osborn

Jennifer Osborn

Reporter and columnist at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Jennifer Osborn covers news and features on the Blue Hill Peninsula and Deer Isle-Stonington. She welcomes tips and story ideas. She also writes the Gone Shopping column. Email Jennifer with your suggestions at [email protected] or call 667-2576.
Jennifer Osborn

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