KITTERY, Maine — Ready or not, recreational marijuana will be available for purchase in Maine’s southern-most town in the not too distant future.
Now Kittery must plunge ahead and resolve lingering questions such as where retail stores will be able to set up shop, and what effect it will have on already established businesses.
However, before such questions are answered, the town still has yet to fully develop ordinances to regulate medicinal marijuana, which is legal already. How that gets resolved could be an indication as to what Kittery’s retail marijuana infrastructure will eventually look like when shops are eligible to open up next February.
“We reviewed our [zoning] code, and in reviewing our code we identified not only that we need to address retail marijuana, but we have not fully addressed medical marijuana. So we decided to take this as a two-fold approach and take care of both of those things,” Town Manager Kendra Amaral said during a joint workshop with the Town Council and Planning Board when the future of legal marijuana, medicinal and recreational, in Kittery was discussed.
“In the short term,” she added, “how do we make sure that any retail marijuana that may come into town is done so in a way we want, so that nothing slips through in the transition between the state making regulations official and therefore allowing licensing and us not being ready to allow licensing?”
According to Town Planner Chris DiMatteo, there simply has not been enough demand among Kittery residents for medical marijuana that would require the town to develop specific ordinances for medical marijuana due to the low number of caregivers in town who grow a handful of plants and make products for a limited number of patients.
“We really haven’t had the opportunity from the demand side [for medical marijuana] to manage how all of it works,” DiMatteo said. “With retail marijuana coming forward it gives us the opportunity to figure out what we’re going to do.”
How the town opts to go forward will go a long ways to stave off unintended consequences that would affect residents and businesses. Based on how the town has yet to fully resolve medical marijuana, it leaves a degree of doubt among some residents that the town will be ready for recreational marijuana sold commercially.
“I think voters wanted both legal marijuana and retail shops to buy it in, but it should be happening all at once. I understand legislation needs to be passed but why wait another year?” said Edward, 28, a Kittery resident who declined to provide his last name. “I think the majority of the public who consumes marijuana is smart about it and wants to reap the benefits as a community.”
When retail shops officially open next year, Kittery will have an outstanding moratorium on opening up marijuana-exclusive “social clubs,” which are just now being established in Colorado. A stroll around the Kittery Foreside revealed mixed attitudes toward the possibility of opening a cigar bar of sorts for marijuana alongside the bars and restaurants in the area.
“This is an herb-friendly community,” said one Kittery restaurant server who asked to not be named. “But I’m not sure one would work out in the Foreside because alcohol and marijuana don’t mix well and there can only be so many businesses in town.”
Others were fine with the thought of Maine becoming a full-blown Colorado of the East.
“It would be nice to go somewhere where everyone is accepting of it,” another Kittery server said. “It would bring a whole new crowd over to this part of Kittery.”
Some expressed reservations about it being commercially available without specific regulations in place.
“The gray area is what’s the problem,” said Fred, who works at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. “The reality is kids are being exposed to it one way or another. My kids are being exposed to cigarettes and alcohol. I’d much rather have them being introduced to it in a controlled environment.”
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