GARDINER — Gardiner officials are moving ahead with a temporary ban on marijuana retail shops and social clubs inside city limits.

The Gardiner City Council on Wednesday voted 6-0, with Mayor Thom Harnett and At-large Councilor Scott Williams absent, to approve a moratorium.

With the vote came a directive for the city staff to develop a plan for what will happen next, including how to get word out to the public on the process.

“Not everyone reads the newspaper or is on Facebook,” At-large Councilor Maureen Blanchard said at Wednesday’s meeting.

City officials have discussed the temporary ban since mid-November, shortly after Maine voters narrowly approved a ballot initiative that legalizes recreational marijuana in Maine.

“We don’t have a final plan yet,” Gardiner City Manager Scott Morelli said Thursday. “What I envision is some sort of task force, probably made up of pro, opposed and neutral parties, and experts like the police chief and the Planning Board chairwoman.”

That task force would answer the threshold question of what Gardiner wants to do about the retail shops, social clubs and commercial growing facilities; and it would be charged with coming up with recommendations to take to the City Council.

“If the answer is no, we shouldn’t have these, and the council agrees, we can drop it,” Morelli said. “If the answer is yes on some or all of it, then it will go to the Ordinance Review Committee for the appropriate land use measures with appropriate sites and buffers, like a bar. And that would come back before the council.”

Although a majority of Gardiner voters cast no ballots on this question, the measure passed statewide 381,647-377,733, a difference of 3,995 votes. In Gardiner, only 141 votes separated the 1,464 favor from the 1,605 opposed.

Opponents of the measure requested a recount in the days after the November election. That recount was halted Saturday as those opposing legalizing recreational marijuana acknowledged that the totals were correct and were unlikely to change.

The secretary of state’s office certified the vote on ballot Question 1 on Wednesday, and now the measure heads to the governor’s office, which must issue a proclamation of the vote within 10 days of receiving it. The measure goes into law 30 days after that.

While the state rules, expected to be developed by the state Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, might not be completed until the second half of 2017, cities and towns have the option to ban social clubs and retail shops outright or impose tighter restrictions than the state is likely to demand.

Aside from the state actions, South Gardiner resident John McMillian warned those at the City Council meeting that no matter what actions the council takes at the local level, state law will not protect anyone in Maine from being prosecuted at the federal level; federal law enforcement continues to consider marijuana an illegal drug.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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