In this Dec. 13, 2017, file photo, James MacWilliams prunes a marijuana plant that he is growing indoors in Portland, Maine. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

The town of Enfield has rejected a proposal to allow recreational marijuana retailers in town, meaning the Penobscot County community will remain among the approximately 90 percent of Maine towns that haven’t yet opted into the state’s recreational market.

The vote against opting in came at a town meeting last week that featured just 10 participants. Six residents opposed the measure to allow recreational shops to open and establish rules for them while four supported it, Enfield Town Manager Charles Frazier said.

“I thought the community would want to be a bit more part of it,” Frazier said. “They might have been burned out on recent votes, or maybe we didn’t advertise it quite as well as we had in the past. It just didn’t get the attention I was hoping for.”

Town officials had worked for months on what they thought was a responsible measure to tap into the state’s growing recreational marijuana market while setting rules, he said.

In March alone, the state recorded nearly $10.6 million in recreational marijuana sales, according to the Office of Marijuana Policy. So far this year, the state has averaged about $9.5 million in sales each month, up from about $6.8 million last year. The state saw $82.9 million in sales in all of 2021.

Still, however, only about 50 municipalities statewide have so far approved measures that allow recreational marijuana storefronts, according to the Office of Marijuana Policy.

Frazier said a group of local residents had shown interest in opening up a recreational store in the town of about 1,400, but there was no ordinance in place to allow it. Currently, Enfield only has rules governing medicinal marijuana operations.

Frazier, along with the town’s select and planning boards, solicited feedback from the community and held a meeting with an Office of Marijuana Policy official where residents could learn more, he said.

After that meeting,  Frazier said he thought there was a clear path forward for the town, and the planning board drafted an ordinance to allow marijuana stores.

But the few voters who showed up at the April 13 special town meeting didn’t approve.

“My thing was that our town needs to put in some safeguards, and when you put in those safeguards, good government should be able to be flexible, as the character of the town changes,” Frazier said. “I do believe it is my responsibility to make sure the town is properly prepared to make an informed decision, and that was one of the goals I had when we were starting.”

Now, however, town officials will go back to the drawing board.

“We want to get this right for you guys,” he said, “but we need everybody to show up.”

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Sawyer Loftus

Sawyer Loftus is an investigative reporter at the Bangor Daily News. A graduate of the University of Vermont, Sawyer grew up in Vermont where he worked for Vermont Public Radio, The Burlington Free Press...