Monmouth residents on Tuesday passed a half-year moratorium on the sale of recreational marijuana in the town. They approved the moratorium in a 695-462 vote, while also considering several other state and local questions on the ballot.

Local officials proposed the 180-day moratorium to give the town’s Planning Board time to prepare rules for any commercial activity involving recreational marijuana, after Maine voters narrowly legalized its sale and use by adults in a referendum vote one year ago. It will take effect in February.

The Monmouth Planning Board has been writing a proposed ordinance that would limit where recreational pot can be sold in town and how many licenses can be issued for its sale, among other things, but they recommended the moratorium because of the uncertainty about what rules surrounding marijuana ultimately will be passed by state lawmakers.

Mixed messages have been coming out of Augusta on the subject.

On Monday, the Maine House voted to uphold a veto by Gov. Paul LePage of a bill that would have made wide-ranging amendments to the marijuana referendum that Maine voters narrowly approved in November 2016.

Among other provisions, the bill would have required towns to approve specific legislation allowing the local sale of marijuana. As it stands now, the referendum that was passed last November requires towns to opt out of the sales.

The working Monmouth ordinance is just “a draft” that “most likely will change, only because the state has changed their wording 180 degrees,” said David Shaw, the town’s code enforcement officer, last month.

Officials originally were planning to seek voter approval for those rules by this fall, Shaw said, but now they need more time to adjust the local ordinance so that it’s consistent with the changes being made by state lawmakers, who are trying to balance the needs for public safety, public health and tax revenue as they set up an adult-use marijuana market.

Despite the statewide success of the referendum question last fall, there appears to be more opposition than support for the legalization of recreational pot in the communities around Augusta. Just two municipalities in Kennebec County approved of it at the ballot box: Waterville and Hallowell.

In Monmouth, voters rejected the statewide referendum in a 1,249-1,133 vote.

“The town, like lots of them, voted no,” Town Manager Curtis Lunt said last month. “So it’s controversial, naturally. Some people don’t want it, period, and some people say it’s harmless.”

Local officials don’t know whether residents eventually will reject any proposal to sell marijuana in town, and they plan to hold a public hearing before any referendum vote on regulations. The new ordinance could be ready for voter approval by Town Meeting next spring, Lunt said.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

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