Surry Selectmen to give voters more options on marijuana issue

SURRY — Ask and you shall receive.

That’s one takeaway from a public hearing the town of Surry held Sept. 20 about a proposed retail marijuana prohibition ordinance.

After holding an emergency meeting Monday morning, the Board of Selectmen decided to change a proposed ordinance from an umbrella ordinance, which would have banned all potential commercial marijuana uses, to allowing residents to vote on each of five potential uses.

One resident at the Sept. 20 hearing, Robert Duhaime, argued that residents should get to vote on each potential use the state will allow under Maine’s recreational marijuana initiative, as the town of Blue Hill is doing.

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

Duhaime said there are a lot of kitchens in Surry certified for commercial use. Those residents might want to bake muffins or other items that would be sold out of town.

Or, they might want to cultivate marijuana on their unused farm field, Duhaime said.

“To deny these people the opportunity to start a little business like that is terrible and short-sighted,” Duhaime said.

Resident Karl Holmes said he agreed with Duhaime about splitting the ordinance into separate components for voting.

“I don’t think every component of all of this stuff is going to have impaired drivers coming around,” said Holmes. In talking with people around town, “I’m shocked to find out everybody’s been growing for a long time anyway,” Holmes said.

Surry is holding a local referendum with the five marijuana questions along with the state referendum on Tuesday, Nov. 7.

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

“We were the only community in the peninsula that voted against legalized marijuana,” said Selectman Bill Matlock. “That gave us an indication at least, regardless of our personal beliefs.”

Matlock said the ordinance does not prohibit personal use.

“You can have up to 2.5 ounces on your person and a bunch of plants — six flowering plants and an unlimited number of seedlings,” he said.

“I am concerned that if Surry becomes the only community on the peninsula to allow retail sales, we might see a significant increase in traffic and an increase in accidents,” Matlock said. “We have enough issues.”

Also, revenue from potential marijuana enterprises would not necessarily help the town’s coffers.

Matlock said the Legislature is proposing an excise tax on any marijuana sales.

“The host community,” would get 5 percent, he said. “On a $100 sale, Surry would get a dollar. It would take a significant operation to make a dent in taxes.”

Former Surry Selectman and retired police officer Dale Sprinkle spoke about what’s been happening in the marijuana industry in other parts of the country from a law enforcement perspective.

“What they’ve found out virtually all over the country is that not all of the customer base wants to be seen going in and out of a pot shop,” Sprinkle said. So, to keep business going, sales are being made out a shop’s back door.

“Are we going to collect taxes on people selling out the back door?” Sprinkle asked.

A retail marijuana shop has the potential of drawing “goons” from Rhode Island or Boston who might ask a shop owner to “take a vacation,” ultimately taking over his shop because they can’t get their own retail licenses, Sprinkle said.

If Surry has a marijuana business, it’s a town matter, Sprinkle said.

“You won’t find law enforcement agencies getting involved in something that’s a town matter. So what we would have to do is have the Surry police department. We don’t contract with the Sheriff’s Department for patrols, so selectmen would be adding another major budget item.”

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.

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