GARDINER — City elected officials will move ahead with a proposal for a 180-day ban on allowing marijuana retail shops and social clubs and associated activities inside city limits.

Gardiner is among the cities and towns across Maine now trying to understand what effect the citizen’s initiative legalizing recreational marijuana will have on city.

Mayor Thom Harnett said the moratorium is an opportunity to send a message to city residents that there will be a community conversation on the issues the law presents.

“We want the time to do that,” Harnett said.

Gardiner resident Louis Sigel said he’s opposed to the temporary ban because, as it now appears, no state regulations governing shops and social clubs are likely to be completed in less than a year, and that time period exceeds the period of the proposed moratorium.

“It’s totally unnecessary and irrelevant to declare a moratorium,” he said. “It accomplishes nothing.”

Instead, he said, the city should set up a task force to investigate the issue.

Harnett said it’s possible for Gardiner to have both a moratorium and a task force.

Joanne Joy, executive director of Healthy Communities of the Capital Area, said she supports the temporary ban because the law has so many moving parts.

Even as communities such as Gardiner consider a temporary ban, a statewide recount on Question 1 is underway in Augusta. Opponents to legalizing recreational marijuana requested the move, which began Monday in the secretary of state’s office.

The recount is expected to continue through Dec. 16. It will stop until after Jan. 1 to accommodate holidays and vacations.

If the law stands, adults will be able to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and grow a limited number of plants when it goes into effect.

At the state level, the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry will regulate marijuana retail shops and social clubs. The department will have nine months after the law goes into effect to draft regulations.

Cities and towns have the ability to impose regulations on those facilities or to ban them outright.

Even though she’s for the temporary ban, Joy said no firm time line exists and any temporary ban might expire before city officials could complete their work,

Jon Pottle, the city’s solicitor, who attended the meeting via telephone, said state law allows moratoriums to be extended if two conditions exist — the need for the temporary ban still exists and if reasonable progress is being made on the issue that prompted the ban.

Having the moratorium in place offers a level of protection to the city, Pottle said. If retail shops and social clubs a are not allowed, no one could say their business interests were damaged if the city were to enact a permanent ban at a later date.

Gardiner officials first considered the matter at their meeting in mid-November, but on advice from their attorney, they opted to follow the same procedure for enacting an ordinance.

The citizen’s initiative was approved by only a narrow margin statewide.

Across Kennebec County, in unofficial resutls, a majority of voters opposed the proposal; in Gardiner, 1,470 voted in favor, and 1,615 voted against it.

Only two county municipalities voted in favor of recreational marijuana — Hallowell and Waterville.

The proposed moratorium will undergo a first reading at the council’s next meeting.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ


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