Council Member Karen DeLuccie fears Independence will get sued regarding its medical marijuana facility regulations. Fellow Council Member Curt Dougherty insists the city – and business applicants – still have time to iron out regulations and compliance.
Dougherty gained enough support for a 4-3 vote to have DeLuccie's ordinance postponed a few weeks, giving the council more time for review.
Missouri's application process for marijuana facilities ends Saturday. DeLuccie says that with its current regulations being notably stricter than state recommendations, the city is asking to be sued.
“We're playing a game, and it's not a game,” she said before the vote.
“This is serious business,” added Council Member Scott Roberson, echoing DeLuccie.
John Perkins, Mike Huff and Tom Van Camp voted with Dougherty. They had also voted against considering DeLuccie's amendment an emergency, which would have made it effective immediately. Mayor Eileen Weir also voted against the emergency status, saying she disagreed with the rule that it needed a two-thirds majority vote to pass. Weir had voted with DeLuccie and Roberson to pass the amended ordinance.
Dougherty said attorneys advised them the city could still take time to finalize its regulations, that if a city changes regulations, the state allows business applicants to change their application.
“So there really is no emergency,” he said. “We will not be impeding anybody's access to this in anyway.”
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. Currently, any marijuana facility in Independence would require a special-use permit.
Dougherty said he has concerns about dispensaries possibly attracting crime to a neighborhood because of the black market that would remain with marijuana.
Van Camp said the city could get sued either way – for being too loose or too restrictive.
“What I'm looking at is a knee-jerk reaction again, which has cost us and got us to this point,” he said. “If our restrictions are too tight, there's ample room and procedures that would allow them to amend that, we're not against the wall here.”
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. That likely means up to 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.
Jasmine Abou-Kassem, an attorney representing prospective dispensary owner Jonathan Lowe, said the proposed revisions “mirror the spirit of Amendment 2,” which permitted medical marijuana, and that without them, “the potential for lawsuits is tremendous.”
Outside the meeting, Abou-Kassem said the state indeed allows for applications to be amended, but it's unclear how that might affect a prospective business owner – if it might put the owner lower on the totem pole. As such, it denies due process.
“Amendment 2 says you have to show compliance with local ordinances,” she said, adding that current regulations leave almost no chance of a good location for a dispensary business.
“There's no places,” she said. “It's already zoned out.”