Surry discusses marijuana ordinance proposals



SURRY — Cannabis: will Surry residents be able to commercially grow it, test it, sell it or manufacture it into baked goods?

Those questions will be answered during Surry’s referendum on retail marijuana Tuesday, Nov. 7. Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the town office.

Meanwhile, 16 residents and the Board of Selectmen, Bill Matlock, Steve Bemiss and Rebecca Collison, gathered at the school gymnasium Tuesday to review five proposed marijuana prohibition ordinances, which will be decided during the daylong referendum.

Surry organized the potential uses into separate ordinances so residents could decide each potential use.

In contrast, some Maine municipalities have proposed a general prohibition ordinance, which would either allow all the potential retail uses or allow none of them.

The five potential uses under the state of Maine’s recreational marijuana initiative include retail store, cultivation, testing facility, social club and manufacturing facility.

“The law specifically prohibits towns from prohibiting personal use,” said Matlock, who moderated the meeting. “The only thing local communities can do is regulate or prohibit retail sales of recreational marijuana. Towns can’t put a local sales tax on it.”

Matlock explained that the wording of the referendum, which was obtained from the Maine Municipal Association, is “a little bit counter intuitive.”

The town distributed a flyer explaining the language.

“To prohibit, you vote ‘yes’ on each question,” the flyer stated. “To allow, you vote ‘no’ on each question.”

A handful of people spoke during the hearing. Most did so in favor of approving at least a few of the potential retail uses.

Resident Rob Duhaime spoke in favor of allowing manufacturing, cultivation and testing facilities.

“I think we have a common ground that no one really wants a [marijuana] store in Surry,” Duhaime said.

“Why should we deny someone the right to bake brownies that might be sold in a store 50 miles away?” Duhaime asked. “If what you’re doing doesn’t bother me, then game on.”

Another resident is concerned about health issues. The woman said she was concerned about “the babies.”

“I heard the governor of Colorado say they had an increase of babies born with marijuana in their system. I’m concerned about that.” That will affect taxes if there are extra children with special needs, she said.

Matlock addressed the potential revenue Surry might receive if retail marijuana is allowed.

“I just wanted to make sure that everybody understood that one of the pro points is there’s going to be a lot of money made,” Matlock said. “That’s true, there’s going to be a lot of money made on the state level, but that’s not true on the local level.”

Matlock shared with residents a “Marijuana Revenue Analysis,” which showed that a marijuana retail business based in Surry would need to post $40 million in sales to reduce the average property tax bill by $25.

The selectman explained that because of the way the law has been proposed, municipalities would only receive 5 percent of a proposed 20 percent in revenue that would go to the state.

Meanwhile, Maine is closer to having legislation to accompany the marijuana initiative.

State Sen. Kimberley Rosen (R-Hancock County) is on the committee that drafted the law for the initiative.

Rosen said the Legislature will go back for a special session on Oct. 23 to vote on the bill.

At a Sept. 20 hearing, Selectman Rebecca Collison noted that Surry residents had voted against the legalization of marijuana last November. The vote was 52 percent yes to 48 percent no.

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.