GARDINER — City councilors delayed making a decision Wednesday on temporarily banning marijuana retail shops and social clubs, on the advice of an attorney.

The issue was not the subject of the moratorium; rather. it’s how the city officials had planned to enact it.

“We’ve been told we have to follow the same process we do for an ordinance,” City Manager Scott Morelli said. That requires two readings of the proposed measure as well as public hearings.

Instead, they voted 6-2, with District 3 City Councilor Shawn Dolley and At-large City Councilor Jon Ault voting no, to put consideration of a moratorium on the agenda for the next meeting in three weeks.

In the meantime, opponents of Question 1, which legalizes recreational marijuana in addition to paving the way for retail shops and social clubs, said they turned in enough signatures by Wednesday’s deadline to request a recount of the citizen’s initiative.

Statewide, voters approved Question 1 by a narrow margin, 378,288-375,668, a difference of only 2,620 votes. In Gardiner, however, ‘no’ votes outnumbered ‘yes’ votes by 145.

State officials now must verify that at least 100 signatures on the submitted petition came from registered voters who cast ballots in the Nov. 8 election before a recount is scheduled.

As written, the ballot measure allows cities and towns to regulate retail shops and social clubs.

Because those establishments are newly created, cities and towns have no regulations about them and they are not included in zoning ordinances.

The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry has been identified as the state licensing authority that would grant licenses for retail shops or social clubs. Rule making is expected to take about nine months.

Mayor Thom Harnett said both the referendum and the statute are clear that the level of municipal control is high, except for possession and personal use of marijuana.

“If there are no rules, what does a moratorium do for us?” Ault said. “We can’t deny permits that can’t be applied for.”

“That’s a legitimate question,” Harnett said.

After the vote, Jefferson resident Noah Rosen said he’s watching what happens in Gardiner.

“I’m trying to get information on what different towns are thinking about,” Rosen said.

He would like to have a small medical marijuana shop to provide his clients with marijuana in Gardiner, and he might like to expand that to a social club. If he couldn’t do that in Gardiner, he said, he would look elsewhere for a location for his medical marijuana.

If Gardiner officials move ahead with creating regulations for marijuana retail shops or social clubs, they would send the work to the city’s Ordinance Review Committee and Planning Board.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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