BELFAST — City Council issued a policy statement to the Planning Board Aug. 17 directing it to develop a recreational marijuana ordinance for cultivation, testing and manufacturing facilities, but excluded retail sales. Owners of two local medical marijuana dispensaries hope the new ordinance will not make it hard for small-business owners to invest in the market.

New World Organics owner Justin Olsen plans to open another storefront in East Belfast on Searsport Avenue. He hopes that the ordinance is not crafted with barriers that would make it more difficult for small-business owners to operate in the city.

Paul McCarrier , owner of 1 Mill, said the state’s rollout of recreational marijuana regulations has made it difficult for small-business owners to break into the industry. He hopes Belfast will make the ordinance consistent for small-business owners and larger corporations.

Belfast is predominantly a small-business community and if people want to keep it that way, they should make it a point to spend their money locally, he said. He would like to see the ordinance provide a transparent process for all prospective business owners. He also hopes there will not be arbitrary setbacks from schools and town buildings. He thinks the licensing fee should not be a barrier to entry for small businesses.

Olsen hopes the ordinance has some rules regarding the distance allowed between separate recreational marijuana establishments. He thinks recreational marijuana could bring good economic development to the city. It could provide good-paying jobs and repurpose some of the empty buildings in the city, he said, and would be a good industry for the city’s business-friendly atmosphere. “I think that marijuana, whether it’s medical or recreational, is going to be good for the city, because of all the new growth, just from the building I bought … and there’s other people out there doing the same thing,” he said.

“They’re taking empty buildings that maybe would have stayed (vacant) and giving them a second life. So, I think that’s really good for Belfast and the economy 10 years from now, if it continues the way it’s going, it could be really good for tourism and it could be really good for everybody overall. I’m optimistic.”

McCarrier thinks the local cannabis need is being met currently, so he is skeptical about the ordinance bringing in a lot of new business sales. He thinks it will be more beneficial to tourists who want to buy marijuana when they are in the state, but do not have a medical card.

July’s monthly retail recreational marijuana sales statewide totaled about $9,433,860, according to the Office of Marijuana Policy’s website. The state collected $943,480 in sales tax in July from 124,004 transactions.

Olsen also thinks recreational marijuana will be geared more toward tourists because of its high price tag, he said. He does not think it will hurt the medical marijuana industry; if anything, it might help it because people might seek out medical marijuana as a way to alleviate their medical conditions after trying it recreationally.

McCarrier said the state-imposed regulations and taxes raise the price of recreational marijuana above that of medical marijuana. He gets a lot of local business from people who are working-class or people who do not make a lot of money and might not be able to afford recreational marijuana.

“We’re a local store, we’re a spot for the locals, we’re not trying to appeal to the tourists, necessarily,” he said. “… We’re in East Belfast, we’re for the frigging trailer parks, for the people who work at McCrum’s, we’re for the people who work at the gas stations … we’re a working-class spot.”

He thinks city councilors have always been transparent, whether people supported their efforts or not. He and Olsen both hope there is an advisory committee, or something similar, formed of local stakeholders, residents and other people with a potential stake in the ordinance so everyone’s voice is considered during the Planning Board process.

Olsen thinks the state legislation and the local ordinance could be a way to bring industry back to the state while keeping most of it local. “I think that it’s better for employers, it’s better for employees, it’s better for business owners,” Olsen said. “Especially because there’s not a lot of things manufactured in the state still and it’s one of the biggest cash crops and it’s all done here and all sold here, so I think that’s pretty amazing.”

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