Two weeks later, and the Independence City Council doesn't appear to be closer to a final decision regarding local regulations for medical marijuana facilities.
Council Member Karen DeLuccie has said the city has set itself up to be sued because its current regulations exceed the state guidelines too much. Her proposed amendment two weeks ago, which essentially would have the city's guidelines mimicking the state before the state's deadline to accept marijuana facility applications, got postponed by a 4-3 vote for further review.
The council's options include approving or denying the proposed amended ordinance, changing the amendment or sending the amendment to the Planning Commission for possible public hearing. No action had been planned for Monday's study session, but Council Member Scott Roberson said approving the amendment was the only rational choice at this point, if only to be in compliance with the state.
“Remanding it back (to the Planning Commission) is only going to drag it out. I'm willing to take the experts' recommendation,” he said, referring to city attorneys who had advised the safer route initially with regulations. “I don't see any reason why not.”
City staff showed that among Blue Springs, Lee's Summit, Springfield, Kansas City, North Kansas City and Columbia, Independence is the only city to have any sort of buffer requirement beyond 1,000 feet. Some have a particular buffer less than that. Independence is also the only one of the group to require a special-use permit, while Columbia is mulling a series of requirements to the business license process and whether or not to set a distance from City Hall.
The current restrictions in Independence, approved earlier this summer, do not allow for a marijuana 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. Some critics have said that zones out all but a small number of spots in the city, and City Counselor Shannon Marcano said there could be some issues with that.
DeLuccie's amendment would eliminate those restrictions and have provisions if a church, school, day care or marijuana facility is part of a larger structure such as an office building or strip mall.
City Manager Zach Walker said he planned to bring forth two possible actions at the council's next meeting after Labor Day – to amend the ordinance and to send it to the Planning Commission.
Marcano said the way she understands it, until state licenses are approved later this year, marijuana facility applicants can still amend their applications. That prompted a terse outburst of disagreement from a few residents attending the meeting, one of whom complained about eliminating access to patients and then stormed out of council chambers.
Jasmine Abou-Kassem, an attorney representing a prospective dispensary owner, has said the state does allow a window to amend applications, but it's unclear how that might affect a prospective business with how the state awards licenses, particularly if city regulations remain up in the air.
The current situation with Independence, she said, leaves the city open to lawsuits.
DeLuccie said it's possible the city could be denying any chance for a marijuana business owner with current restrictions and delaying any changes.
“I don't know why we can't just follow the Missouri Constitution and be done with it,” she said.