A few weeks after it approved medical marijuana facility regulations stricter than state regulations, the Independence City Council will consider some changes to avoid possible litigation for being too restrictive.
Council Member Karen DeLuccie asked for her proposed amendment to the special-use permit regulations to be read as an emergency ordinance Monday. But some other council members balked at voting so quickly after receiving the proposed amendment, and all agreed to take it up next Monday. That would allow medical marijuana applicants to still meet a state deadline later this month.
“Ever since we've adopted an ordinance that exceeded the boundaries of the Missouri constitutional amendment, I've been bombarded with emails and telephone calls from patrons of the marijuana, prospective sellers, manufacturers, that what we had done had violated the Missouri Constitution,” DeLuccie said.
“I do not want this city to pay one dime in lawyers fees,” she said, “and this city will be sued because we exceeded the constitutional amendments set forth.”
With the proposed amendment, the 1,000-foot buffer zone for schools, churches and day-care centers would remain, but provisions are added if one of those facilities or a marijuana facility is part of a larger structure such as an office building or strip mall.
The amendment would eliminate restrictions for a dispensary to be in a historic district or within 2,500 feet of another facility, within 500 feet from any residential district or dwelling or within 1,200 feet of the Truman Library.
Marijuana usage would be prohibited at a dispensary but not other marijuana facilities. Regulations would also cover a medical marijuana transportation facility – that is, a facility certified by the state to transport marijuana to a patient, caregiver or medical marijuana facility.
Missouri will grant licenses for up to 192 medical marijuana dispensaries across the state – 24 in each of the eight congressional districts, and about one per 30,000 population. At most, that would mean four dispensaries in Independence. The state will also grant licenses for up to 60 cultivation stations, 86 marijuana-infused manufacturing facilities and two testing facilities.
Some city staffers had cautioned the council about pushing ahead with marijuana facility regulations that the state might strike down later. Mayor Eileen Weir and Council Member Tom Van Camp had voted in dissent last month, preferring to wait and consult with the state about possible additional regulations.
DeLuccie added that, as she understands it, the city's liability insurance does not cover litigation from unconstitutional actions. Later, she said the proposed amendment should cover most litigation concerns, though a conditional use permit instead of a special use permit might also be worthwhile to avoid litigation.
“It was not well-thought, and I accept partial blame for that,” she said. “I want to fix it before we get sued.”
Longtime Independence resident Deb Holmes, a disabled military veteran who suffers from PTSD, said she had to step away from a good career and medical marijuana has helped her. She worried that the current zoning regulations for marijuana regulations would be a disservice to patients.
“I am the face of medical cannabis,” she said. “We want our lives back.”
“We need to be embracing these businesses,” she added.
Jonathan Lowe, a prospective marijuana business owner, said the current regulations would be a “clear violation of patients rights in Missouri.”
“I understand the concerns brought up tonight,” Weir said. “I think we have more information now, but we haven't had much opportunity to review that specifically this evening.”