When medical marijuana facilities begin to open up across the state of Missouri, Independence should expect to see just a handful of them.
After Missouri voters approved Amendment 2 last November to legalize medical marijuana, the state's Department of Health and Senior Services worked to develop rules on how that would be implemented and won't take business applications until Aug. 3. In the meantime Independence, like many other municipalities, voted in February to pass an administrative delay until that same day.
The state will grant licenses for up to 192 dispensary facilities across the state – 24 for each of the eight congressional districts. Tom Scannell, Independence's director of community development, said Monday the Department of Health and Senior Services is looking at granting one dispensary license per 30,000 in population – essentially four at most for Independence.
Council Member Scott Roberson said that, depending on demand, the city might have even fewer.
Scannell said potential business owners have already been looking at locations to space themselves out and away from churches and schools.
With the DHSS shouldering most of the burden on medical marijuana regulations, cities can't or won't have much to do. Cities are allowed to enact ordinances pertaining to the “time, place and manner of operation” but can't place any “unduly burdensome” regulations, according to state guidelines. The city's proposed ordinance mirrors state regulations in that medical marijuana facilities can't be within 1,000 feet of schools or churches. Cities can grant a shorter distance but not impose a greater one.
Independence's ordinance for medical marijuana locations will come before the City Council next month, with a public hearing on July 15. The ordinance received unanimous approval last month from the Planning Commission, with no citizen comment at the public hearing.
In addition to at most 24 dispensaries per congressional district, the state will grant licenses for up to 60 cultivation stations, 86 marijuana-infused manufacturing facilities and two testing facilities.
And patients can only get medical marijuana from a licensed physician's prescription.
Roberson said he wondered if only a few physicians would be willing to get licensed to write prescriptions, given the potential conflict with federal laws still against marijuana.
“We've heard the same thing from businesses looking to work here,” Scannell said.
Roberson wondered if it might be possible for the city to add regulations that tighten the hours dispensaries could be open (currently proposed between 8 a.m and 10 p.m.) and prohibit using cryptocurrency (digital currency that would be difficult to track) to purchase prescriptions. Mayor Eileen Weir said she would be hesitant to start imposing more restrictions without really knowing how this business opportunity will begin to shake out.
“This is in its infancy,” Council Member Tom Van Camp added. “I don't think we can anticipate the hurricane from this more than what we have.”