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An Update on Missouri's Medical Cannabis Industry - A Debate on Zoning

Posted by Laura Harrison on

An Update on Missouri's Medical Cannabis Industry - A Debate on Zoning

An Update on Missouri's Medical Cannabis Industry

A Debate on Zoning
By: Laura Harrison

With the launch of Missouri’s medical marijuana program and its industries, municipalities and business owners have been having heated debates over zoning. Amendment 2 says that municipalities can set regulations to keep medical marijuana facilities up to 1,000 feet away from schools, churches and daycares. The law is outlined in a way that zoning is not to place undue burden on businesses or patients. Close to home, a heated debate has happened in both Kansas City, Missouri and Independence, Missouri.

Update on MO MMJ
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Kansas City, MO city council members originally proposed a 750’ zoning buffer from schools, churches and daycares. This would have basically excluded some of the neighborhoods most severely impacted by marijuana prohibition, including most of the eastern side of the city limits. Thank you in part to NORML KC, the words and concerns of the people were heard. Jamie Kacz, Executive Direction of NORML Kansas City said, “NORML KC had been closely following the city’s plan for medical marijuana zoning. We discovered the proposed ordinance would not only cause undue burden for patients, but it was also going to limit opportunities in the east side of the city, which is the area in the city most negatively affected by the war on drugs. We rallied our supporters for a barrier of 300ft or less and hosted several Action Alerts that ultimately won the approval of the city council.”
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In the city of Independence, MO, quite the heated debate has been ongoing for several weeks (since June 2019). The initial basics of the councils recommendations on July 15, 2019 are as follows: 1,000’ buffer from daycares, churches and schools, operating hours from 10 am to 8 pm and no outdoor storage would be permitted. all marijuana industry facilities (dispensaries, cultivation, manufacturing) have a special-use permit approved by the council, no facilities in a historic district, within 2500’ of another facility and more than 500’ from any residential district or dwelling or within 1200’ of the Truman Library. Councilmember
Karen DeLuccie proposed amendment on August 5, 2019. Unfortunately, the city council did not even take the time to read DeLuccie’s proposed amendment that wholeheartedly took into consideration the concerns of local residents and potential industry business owners and operators.
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The Independence zoning issue was heard again Monday, August 12, 2019 and city officials refused to move forward despite the potential legal fallout and the hard line support from council members DeLuccie and Roberson. Even attempts by DeLuccie to call last night’s meeting an emergency meeting were shot down by all but Roberson and DeLuccie. The rest of the council said they have three lawyers that told them they have plenty of time to allow for license applicants to amend their applications which is completely false! Applicants are allowed to appeal a license denial but they are not given the opportunity to amend their applications.
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The city will not hear the medical marijuana zoning issue again until August 26, 2019, WELL AFTER the August 17th facilities application deadline. Council member Roberson stated that those that refused to call an emergency meeting to make a decision on this issue should be held personally accountable as they are sure to be sued.
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Keep in mind readers, that these potential businesses have spent thousands in non refundable application fees as well as hundreds and potentially thousands more in business plan development, community impact, etc. This is a disaster of a situation, impacting patients and facilities alike. Ladies and gentlemen, this could very well mean no access for the citizens of Independence. Some facilities have already pulled out and chosen another city for their cannabis business. Those few that choose to stay and fight in Independence are going to be forced into thousands in legal fees to appeal the denial due to lack of proper documentation; all facilities must have real estate secured and written authorization from the city to submit with their applications (that are due August 17th). I truly feel that their are some major lawsuits coming against the City of Independence.
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I had the pleasure and opportunity to speak with Tanya Jones Roth of Canna Moms KC after the August 5th meeting and she said:
"The Independence city council was hardly prepared for another zoning meeting with the exception of Council woman DeLuccie. Considering the backlash they received from the last meeting you assume they would have educated themselves and listened to their constituents, however it was abundantly clear that DeLuccie was the only one who had. Council member Doughtery was clearly uninterested in anything related to cannabis OR the citizen response to his "middle easterners" comment, even falling asleep at one point. Once again due to the incompetence of the majority of the city council the decision was pushed back another week further placing undue burdens on the potential business applicants for this city, which desperately needs the job creation, tax revenue, and medicine for patients, of which overwhelming voted yes on Amendment 2."
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In other areas around the state, municipalities are either setting lesser zoning than the maximum required by Amendment 2, while others are following the exact requirement as laid out by the Amendment. Mayor of Smithville, Missouri Damien Boley said the town has zoned off an area along US Highway 169, a more industrial part of the city. They also opted for the 1,000’ buffer from local schools and churches. Jack Mitchell, who is on the board of directors for the Missouri Medical Cannabis Association said cities are mandated to allow dispensaries and other operations in accourdance with state law. They can, like Smithville, regulate zoning.
In the capital city, officials have determined that medical marijuana retail establishments will be permitted uses in C-1 Neighborhood Commercial (offices, pharmacies, food service and other general retail establishments) and C-2 General Commercial zoning districts (retail, personal services, healthcare facilities).
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Jefferson City also decided to maintain the “state recommended” 1,000’ buffer zone from schools, daycares and churches.
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In Springfield, where there has been overwhelming support for medical access, The Springfield News Leader is quoted as, “Under new city law, cultivation and most manufacturing facilities must be at least 1,000 feet away from schools, day cares and churches, while dispensaries and small manufacturing facilities, such as bakeries, can be within 200 feet of places of worship and day cares. They must be at least 1,000 feet from schools.” Springfield made definite progress in allowing dispensaries and small manufacturing a lesser buffer of 200’ from churches and daycares, while maintaining the state recommended 1,000’ buffer from schools.
In the city of Columbia, council members were mostly very reasonable and ultimately approved a 500’ buffer between dispensaries and churches, schools and daycares. They also struck down a proposal for second floor only for dispensaries because of security risks. Thank goodness that didn’t pass because that definitely would have placed an undue burden upon patients trying to access their recommended treatment.
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Groundbreaking progress happened in St. Louis! City officials determined that any type of zoning buffer would impede access to cannabis medicine. In areas where commercial zoning is close to neighborhoods and residences, a public hearing and approval by a city board will be required for those dispensaries.
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The state of Missouri is seeing a broad range of municipal zoning regulations and without a doubt, those impeding the process (such as Independence) will suffer the consequences and fallout, not to mention lost revenue. Stay tuned for updates regarding patient access statewide.

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