HALLOWELL — The City Council has approved a second 180-day moratorium on recreational marijuana establishments, retail stores and social clubs to allow the city to make changes to its zoning ordinances before the Legislature finalizes rules governing recreational marijuana.

During a special meeting Thursday, the council voted 6-1 in favor of an additional 180 days. Councilor Maureen Aucoin opposed extending the moratorium and didn’t agree with holding a special meeting without allowing the councilors to prepare.

“We should’ve known ahead of time and we should’ve prepared for this,” she said. “Even if the moratorium lapsed, nothing would happen.”

City Manager Nate Rudy said if someone came forward with a retail marijuana business proposal during a one-day gap in moratoriums, it would put the city in legal jeopardy.

“My goal is to have our local zoning and performance standards in place well before the floodgates are open so it’s clear to everyone we welcome retail marijuana industry in Hallowell,” Rudy said.

Rudy said he has paid attention to the public hearings held in the past week at the State House in Augusta on recreational marijuana, which voters approved last November, and he said the Legislature thinks it will have legislation written in February and rule-making completed by June or July.

A committee completed its sweeping rewrite of Maine’s recreational marijuana law Thursday and the bill next faces a vote by lawmakers at a special legislative session in late October.

“You should anticipate an additional 180-day moratorium (after this one expires),” he said.

Mayor Mark Walker said he thinks the Legislature will move more quickly because legal recreational marijuana is something the state and municipalities want.

The state will receive a certain percentage of tax revenue from recreational marijuana establishments, retail stores and social clubs, and so will cities and towns, so the longer Maine is without legislation and rules, the longer the municipalities and state go without additional revenue.

“I think there’s going to be increasing pressure for the Legislature to move quickly,” Walker said.

In Hallowell, the measure to legalize recreational marijuana was supported in the referendum by 873 voters and opposed by 755, with 31 blank ballots. There is already at least one business – the Cannabis Healing Center – selling medical marijuana to those permitted to buy and use it.

Code Enforcement Officer Doug Ide said earlier this year that Hallowell would be “very ripe” for retail establishments and social clubs, so he has been looking at proposed zoning and ordinance changes with the city’s Marijuana Task Force and Ordinance Rewrite Committee. He said it’s important to figure out where retail, cultivation and manufacturing establishments might be located.

Municipalities in central Maine have been debating how to deal with recreational marijuana since the citizen referendum passed during the Nov. 8 election.

Augusta’s City Council approved a 180-day moratorium in December, and a 180-day ban in Gardiner was extended in May and is due to expire in November.

Jason Pafundi can be contacted at 621-5663 or at:

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