By MIKE DONOGHUE
Islander Staff Writer
SOUTH HERO -- South Hero residents voted 291-182 on Town Meeting Day to give preliminary approval to allow cannabis retailers and associated businesses to operate in the island community.
Specifics for any possible cannabis businesses, including locations, must still be approved by South Hero officials and potentially the state of Vermont.
In the only contested race in South Hero on Tuesday, Charles Hulse defeated Robert Fireovid 297-103 for a 3-year term on the Selectboard. Chairman Jonathan Shaw did not seek re-election.
Shaw said 500 residents voted early or came to the polls on Tuesday out of 1,611 voters on the town checklist.
Besides retailers, the marijuana-related article included others "licensed to engage in cultivation, wholesale, product manufacturing, retail, and testing of cannabis and cannabis products."
Shaw said Riyaz "R.J." Merali, who operates Nadia's, a health and wellness store on U.S. 2, asked the Selectboard to put the question on the town-wide ballot.
Merali, who lives in South Hero, was the owner/pharmacist at the former South Hero Pharmacy in the village until August 2020.
He cited the potential taxes from cannabis-related items that the town of South Hero would be able to share.
"Marijuana is being used in the state of Vermont and the islands," he told The Islander last month.
Merali said his store customers have asked him if he might expand into the cannabis business. It was unclear how many other businesses might be interested in expanding into the drug business in South Hero.
South Hero was the only Champlain Island town to vote on the cannabis issue this year. Alburgh, North Hero, Grand Isle and Isle La Motte all opted to pass, but may have to weigh in at some point if they want the decision left to local residents and not the state of Vermont.
The annual South Hero elections were somewhat quiet this year with only the one contested race.
Town Clerk and Treasurer Janet Yates is retiring this month after 29 years working for taxpayers.
Erin Morse, who has been shadowing Yates, was uncontested for the clerk's 3-year post.
Assistant Treasurer Kim Julow was uncontested in her effort to move up to the 3-year posts of town treasurer.
Selectboard member Graham "Skip" Brown had announced he was retiring, but filed on the final day when nobody sought the 2-year seat.
Other seats also were uncontested.
Read next week's The Islander for more Town Meeting Day results. The Islander went to press on Tuesday before the polls closed.