Maine is one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana, but the state’s towns are still largely opposed. The law passed in 2016, which allowed for local governments to ban recreational sales within their borders.
More than 90% of Maine towns still don’t allow recreational marijuana sales. You can find the list of towns that have approved recreational marijuana sales by visiting the maine cultivation license list.
Despite the fact that recreational marijuana sales have gradually increased since they began almost a year ago, more than 90% of Maine towns and cities still prohibit them.
While both Brewer and Orono are on pace to allow recreational cannabis businesses in the near future, they will join just three other towns in Penobscot County that do so: Bangor, Medway, and tiny Stacyville (population: 380). Etna provides for the growth of businesses but not retail shops.
Only 47 of Maine’s roughly 500 towns, cities, and plantations have chosen to allow recreational marijuana shops throughout the state. According to statistics from the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy and the 2020 U.S. Census, just about a third of Maine citizens, or 29%, live in those towns, but many more live nearby.
The limited number of municipalities that allow sales is one roadblock to future expansion for the business, which has only been allowed to sell recreational marijuana since October of last year and had its biggest sales total ever in August, at $10.2 million. The sluggish development in municipalities agreeing to allow retail stores was recognized by a cannabis industry organization.
Many Mainers associate marijuana with harsher narcotics that have devastated their towns, like as opiates and methamphetamine, which explains some of the opposition to legalizing marijuana stores. Glenburn’s planning board examined a greenhouse that would produce medicinal marijuana during the summer, an activity that towns cannot refuse under state law.
Bradford, Corinna, Corinth, Dixmont, Glenburn, and Millinocket have all approved laws prohibiting the establishment of retail marijuana shops rather than opting into recreational sales.
Many of these prohibitions were enacted in the years following Maine voters legalized marijuana for recreational use, including Carmel’s ban, which went into effect in 2017. According to town minutes, the town’s prohibition came after Penobscot County Sheriff Troy Morton suggested it to the town’s select board in December 2016, citing “unforeseen situations” resulting from marijuana legalization.
While Maine’s marijuana legalization referendum narrowly succeeded in 2016, it did so without Penobscot County’s support: 54 percent of the county’s inhabitants voted no. The proposal was supported by just Bangor, Lakeville, Maxfield, Old Town, Orono, and Webster Plantation.
Dover-Foxcroft, in adjacent Piscataquis County, also voted no in the referendum.
Select board member Stephen Grammont stated that five years later, the issue of introducing recreational businesses to town would be presented to voters in November. According to him, the issue arose when a municipal committee considered rewriting its zoning and land use laws.
Grammont said, “The item on the ballot is to assess whether people want the activity at all.”
The vote will not be legally binding, but the town’s select board will be “obligated” to adopt its results, according to Grammont.
The biggest town in Maine’s most conservative county is Dover-Foxcroft. Nonetheless, he said that people’ attitudes on marijuana were uncertain.
“The strange thing about Maine is that it’s conservative but also libertarian,” said Grammont, noting that the state has spawned a diverse spectrum of political groups, from the temperance movement to gun rights.
It took a proposition for a retail shop in many towns to convince them to join. Medway, which authorized recreational marijuana shops by town vote in March 2020, now has one recreational marijuana shop and will likely have another if voters decide to allow medical marijuana shops later this month, according to Town Clerk Katherine Lee.
If similar requests are made in the future, other municipalities may join if they are “economically feasible,” she added.
In order for Maine’s marijuana business to grow, more communities must opt in, according to Joel Pepin, president of the Maine Cannabis Industry Association. While Brewer had just taken the required steps to opt in, he added that progress had been sluggish throughout the state.
A major factor, according to Pepin, is a fear of the unknown. Furthermore, he said that some towns may not perceive the benefit. Retail sales and excise taxes go completely to the state, not to the municipalities in which they are situated.
Despite the fact that he would want to see additional towns, cities, and plantations join, he was upbeat about the recreational industry’s performance since sales started in October. He said that costs, which had previously been a problem for the nascent sector, had decreased.
“Stigmas take time to adapt, and operators take time to step in and engage in the market,” Pepin added. “But, you know, the market has been open for a year and it already seems to have made a lot of progress.”
During town meetings in March and August of this year, Stacyville’s current marijuana laws were adopted.
Alvin Theriault, a member of the select board, claimed there was no resistance. Residents were drawn to the area because of the economic opportunities: According to Theriault, a large-scale grower explored establishing business in Stacyville but subsequently decided against it owing to state restrictions.
“There isn’t any industry here. Theriault said, “We don’t have anything.” “Why not?” says the author.
The Green Moose Smoke Shop, which exclusively offers goods to individuals registered in Maine’s medicinal marijuana program, has recently opened in Stacyville.
People would use marijuana whether towns permitted its sale or not, according to Theriault, who encountered marijuana while it was banned during his decades as a game warden.
Theriault said, “It’s out there.” “You may as well make money out of it.”