Should Bangor, Maine, Get Into the Marijuana Business?

There's a buzz in Bangor, Maine, about the mayor's proposal to open a city-run retail marijuana shop.

Council chair Joe Baldacci announced the idea last week, saying it would help the city keep control over the way marijuana is sold, while ensuring revenue stays local.

"Someone is going to sell it, and it should be done in the most responsible fashion possible," said Baldacci.

Maine voters approved marijuana legalization last November. Now, local municipalities are hashing out the details, as the legislature drafts a statewide policy.

In order to open a city-run store, Baldacci said the council would have to create a nonprofit that manages it. He said it would be the sole vendor of pot in the city.

"It would be the most boring marijuana retail establishment," he laughed. "But it's important to keep control over a substance like this, to prevent minors and excessive use."

Some Bangor residents say the idea seems "greedy."

"I think [marijuana retail sales] should be open to entrepreneurs," said Derek Porter.

Others can see how the revenue would help the community.

"At least they'd make some money off of it, and maybe have our roads look better," said Leslie Lambert.

Anti-marijuana advocates say they can see both sides of the issue.

"If sales or revenues are down, will we see a Maine city promoting increased marijuana use by its citizens?" asked Scott Gagnon, spokesman for the group Mainers Protecting Our Youth and Communities. "Given a choice only between for-profit pot shops, or city run retail operations, the latter would seem to offer more control over those aspects that pose the most risk to youth namely marketing and outlet density."

Baldacci said Bangor councilors would need to wait at least one year to see how the state crafts its marijuana policy.

He said another consideration is the federal government. If Attorney General Jeff Sessions directs the Department of Justice to more aggressively enforce marijuana laws, then Baldacci said Bangor would "back off" of the pot shop proposal.

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