AUGUSTA — City officials on Thursday plan to discuss re-implementing a local moratorium on recreational marijuana sales.

With the statewide moratorium on recreational marijuana sales set to expire in about two months and no local laws in place to regulate sales of the plant legalized by voters in a 2016 statewide referendum, the City Council may want to craft local rules, said City Manager William Bridgeo.

Bridgeo said a renewed moratorium could give the city time to come up with local rules to regulate recreational marijuana sales before they become legal. The statewide referendum legalizing recreational marijuana could be implemented as soon as February.

Matt Nazar, the city’s development director, said if councilors want to ban the sale, processing, cultivation and testing of recreational marijuana in the city, Augusta may do that, and could do so in time to have a ban in place by the time the statewide moratorium expires in February.

However, in a memorandum to councilors, he said, “If the City Council wants to allow some or all commercial activities related to marijuana, in order to ensure we have the time necessary to enact thoughtful regulation, staff recommends enacting a local moratorium.”

Municipalities cannot prohibit possession or use of marijuana by adults, but they can regulate or prohibit its sale or other commercial activities within their borders.

In December 2016 councilors approved a six-month moratorium on any recreational marijuana commercial activity. The Legislature later adopted a statewide moratorium, which expires in February 2018, to give the state time to craft rules and regulations beyond the provisions included in the 2016 referendum that legalized the drug.

A special legislative committee, which was co-chaired by Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, proposed a bill that would establish state rules to implement the legalization of recreational marijuana.

The Legislature approved that bill, but Gov. Paul LePage vetoed it.

While the Legislature may extend the state’s moratorium, Nazar said the city staff considers that unlikely to happen. He said it is thus likely that the citizen-enacted legalization referendum will take effect in February. And, he said, “that law creates many concerns that need to be addressed at the local level, and there is a very short time frame for the city to do so.”

Nazar said the city’s previous, 180-day moratorium could simply be put back in place until the city has a chance, if officials choose, to write local regulations.

Councilors meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in council chambers at Augusta City Center. Councilors also are scheduled to:

• Hear a report on the annual audit of city finances;

• Discuss the city seeking Certified Local Government status; and

• Discuss an amendment to the Procurement Ordinance to comply with federal grant regulations.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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