BLUE HILL — While it is aiming to have laws in place for its Recreational Marijuana Initiative by 2018, Maine will not allow licensing for marijuana social clubs until 2019, according to Bar Harbor attorney Lynne Williams.
Williams, whose practice includes cannabis business law, spoke at a community forum about retail marijuana Monday at the Blue Hill town office.
The Penobscot Bay Press hosted the forum, which was moderated by Publisher Nat Barrows.
Blue Hill is holding a referendum Tuesday, Sept. 26, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. to decide which, if any, of the potential retail marijuana uses voters will allow.
State Sen. Kimberley Rosen (R-Hancock County) sits on the Legislature’s Marijuana Legalization Implementation Committee.
When reached by email about the delay in social club licensing, Rosen said, “We need to see how the rules and regulations work before we dive right in to social clubs.”
About 50 Blue Hill residents, downtown business owners and selectmen from neighboring towns attended the forum.
One resident asked about marijuana being addictive, which she said she’d never heard before.
“Is this something new because of the current potency of it?” the resident asked.
Panelist Tara Young, who is a certified prevention specialist for Healthy Acadia, replied that “higher potency does play a part.”
“THC mimics a neurotransmitter found in your brain,” Young said. “That calm, happy feeling wears off and it takes longer for your brain to start producing it again.”
Young explained that’s why the younger people are when they try marijuana, the greater the chance they will become addicted.
Teenagers who start using marijuana at age 15 have a one in six chance of becoming addicted, Young said. People who wait to try marijuana until after age 21 are much less likely to become addicted, she said.
Another factor is a person’s biological setpoint for addiction, Young said.
“Those are things you can’t know for sure but can surmise based on your family history,” she said.
The other panelists included certified medical marijuana caregiver Dan Brown of Blue Hill. Brown also owns The Grow Store in Blue Hill, a shop catering to indoor and outdoor growers.
Brown would like to operate a retail marijuana store in Blue Hill.
“If Blue Hill doesn’t want retail marijuana, I don’t want to fight the town on it,” Brown said.
“This is just Round 1, do we even want it in our town?” he said, alluding to the Sept. 26 referendum.
“Please let me have a store,” Brown said at the end of the 90-minute forum. “I think it could be good for me and the town.”
He estimated a retail marijuana operation would result in 10 to 15 jobs. He currently employs three full-time and three part-time workers at the Grow Store.
Blue Hill Selectman and attorney Ellen Best was also a panelist. Best is concerned about the response from Blue Hill’s summer colony if the town allows retail marijuana.
“I am concerned because it has brought considerable prosperity to our town,” Best said. “Take a drive through Washington County.”
Potential revenue generation was another question.
“What kind of dollars are we talking about a town will miss out on?” asked resident Robert Duhaime.
“I don’t know what to say monetarily it’s going to be,” Brown replied.
Brown said with 5 percent sales tax going to the town, the last estimate he did resulted in a figure of him paying $50,000 to the town.
Cullen Schneider, who owns Fairwinds Florist on Main Street, said, “Can we talk about tourism? Because I think that’s a big piece of the puzzle Rob [Duhaime] brought up.”
Best replied that Blue Hill isn’t so much “a tourist destination as a summer haven. I doubt we’ll get a big tourism impact here based on marijuana because you’ll drive through a lot of towns where you can get marijuana before you get here.”
“I don’t think that we should be making this decision based on what we conceive to be the revenue from it,” Best said. “The revenue from licensing and taxing — it’s always difficult to see what those revenues are going to be. Casinos were going to be a great revenue source for the state. That hasn’t been the case.”
Another resident questioned what actions, if any, the federal government might take since even medical marijuana is still considered illegal by the federal government.
“The common wisdom is [President] Donald Trump has no interest doing anything with marijuana,” Williams said. “If the feds do, and I don’t think they will, turn on states, they’re going to go after Western states. Maine is at the end of the road.”
“Keep an open mind,” said Williams, who provided a timeline of state activity.
After mid-October when the Legislature goes back into session, the proposed legislation will go to state agencies, including the Maine Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations and Maine Department of Agriculture, Williams said. Those departments will create rules and policies, which the Legislature will vote on in January.
Applications for retail marijuana businesses should be available in February, the attorney said.