Independence's medical marijuana regulations, which in several ways are tighter than state regulations, will continue as they for the time being.
A City Council majority Monday turned down an ordinance to roll back most regulations to mirror state guidelines after voters approved medical marijuana last year.
The current restrictions in Independence do not allow for a medical marijuana facility to be less than 1,000 feet from churches, schools and day care centers – matching the state. They also restrict a marijuana facility from within 2,500 feet of another facility, within 500 feet of any residential district or dwelling or within 1,200 feet of the Truman Library. All medical marijuana business applicants must also obtain a special-use permit that goes through the council.
Some critics have said that creates an undue burden and zones out all but a small number of spots in the city, potentially reducing access for patients, and they say it violates the Missouri Constitution.
The new regulations would have changed buffer requirements between facilities, from residential properties, from the Truman Library and within the historic district, though it would have kept the special-use permit requirement.
Council members Curt Dougherty, John Perkins, Mike Huff and Tom Van Camp voted against the ordinance. Dougherty had introduced the additional restrictions back in July when a council majority approved them.
Scott Roberson and Karen DeLuccie, who have pushed to roll back regulations to avoid possible litigation, voted in dissent. Mayor Eileen Weir was absent from Monday's meeting. DeLuccie joined via video feed.
Roberson had proposed removing the special-use permit, something city staff said it prefers. That failed 3-3, as Perkins joined DeLuccie and Roberson in support of it. DeLuccie and Roberson, while they initially voted for the city's regulations, have since urged the council to change them after possible applicants and customers claimed the regulations run afoul of state constitution.
“This is not an issue we will have any say over,” Roberson said, regarding restrictions beyond what Missouri voters approved last fall.
Deb Holmes, a disabled veteran who suffers from PTSD, told the council before how medical marijuana helped her and again urged the council to change course.
“Fix the zoning before you're sued,” she said Monday, “because I don't want to pay for your mess.”
Dave Hinson of KCHC, LLC, which has applied for a license in Independence, said the state received 14 applications for Independence, and about nine would be zoned out by current restrictions.
Hinson, a former state legislator from Franklin County, said cities do require special-use permits for various types of businesses, but Independence would be the only one with that requirement for medical marijuana. Furthermore, it would be the only one with a 500-foot residential district restriction.
After Monday's vote, Hinson said the issue won't go away in the city, and that “they've forced our hand.”
Dougherty said the process for special-use permit allows for public input, and some areas just might not want a dispensary nearby. Dougherty said he has concerns about dispensaries possibly attracting crime to a neighborhood because of the black market that would remain with marijuana.
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 likely means 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.
The state has accepted applications for licenses but has not yet granted licenses.