Though Maine isn’t set to vote on recreational marijuana legalization until November, city officials in the state’s capital want to hit the ground running logistically. Bangor leadership is studying best practices from legalized states around the country to hammer out any restrictions or guidelines that would need to be put in place come November; the Bangor City Council hopes to gain valuable insight into which regulations are effective and which are not.
“We’re not taking a position on the referendum itself, and we have no intentions of doing so,” cautioned Councilor Joe Baldacci.
In a city council meeting Tuesday night, Councilor Josh Plourde made it clear that Bangor didn’t intend to ban the sale or cultivation of cannabis, which would be an available option at the city level under the proposed new statewide initiative. “If our goal were to limit access by becoming a ‘dry town,’ so to say, it’s very easy to drive to Brewer or Hampden to make purchases,” which would render a ban on sales in Bangor useless, Plourde explained. Rather, there’s likely a set of regulations the city can put in place to ensure a safe, effective, and thriving market, which would please all sides involved.
According to “Question 1” on Maine’s upcoming ballot, Maine cities and towns would be prohibited from banning “cultivation of marijuana on a limited scale in a personal residence.” What the council must decide is how it plans to regulate where marijuana businesses can operate, and what they can put on their shelves. For example, New York patients cannot legally obtain flower while Oregon outright banned edibles for recreational use.
Bangor City Council Chairman Sean Faircloth explained that the city is doing its due diligence to ensure optimal safety for their constituents, which could mean outlawing products like medicated candy gummies that could potentially attract children. Here are some possible ordinances Bangor may consider, according to their outline:
- An ordinance banning marijuana establishments, including stores, cultivation facilities, and social clubs.
- An ordinance allowing cultivation facilities in industrial zones, with accessory retail stores, but otherwise banning retail stores, and banning social clubs.
- An odor ordinance. The Attorney General’s Office recommends regulating all objectionable odors, not just marijuana, to survive a legal challenge.
Local business owners who want to join in on the “green rush” hope that the city doesn’t banish marijuana-related outfits to a remote part of the city such as a well-hidden industrial park, as municipalities have done in other states.
“I want these potential businesses to be viewed as an opportunity rather than something that’s going to be a massive negative,” said a hopeful Chris Ruhlin, who owns Herbal Tea and Tobacco in downtown Bangor. Ruhlin also operates the medical marijuana club next door to Herbal and is urging the city to look at his business and others just as they would a bar or any other alcohol-distributing establishment. Ruhlin argued to city officials that technically, according to data he provided, alcohol represented a far greater public health risk than cannabis and should be treated accordingly.
Now, the city council must decide when and where to install the new ordinances, however, leadership has been vocal about waiting to see what happens with the November vote. According to Weedmaps, there are currently four dispensary storefronts in Bangor and one delivery service. Find more info, including reviews on each shop, here.