City commissioners have approved bylaws for commercial marijuana operations within city limits.
The framework will only go into effect if the district court finds that the city cannot prohibit marijuana activities as it currently does, or if voters choose to allow marijuana activities within city limits during of the November election.
Proposed City Marijuana Sales Bylaw on Sept. 6 Agenda
The version adopted by the commissioners at their Sept. 7 meeting would amend the city code to include state law definitions of permitted marijuana business activities; all commercial marijuana activities would be subject to the licensing requirements of state law; and such marijuana activities may not be within 500 feet and on the same street of a building used exclusively as a place of worship or a school other than a commercially operated school, unless the locality requires greater distance.
City votes to send marijuana issue to November ballot
They passed regulations that would make:
- dispensaries, testing laboratories would be permitted as permitted uses in light or heavy industrial districts;
- cultivation would be conditional use in light industrial districts and permitted use in heavy industrial districts;
- manufacturing would only be permitted use in heavy industrial districts.
All land uses for marijuana, such as sale, cultivation, testing, and other activities, are currently prohibited in the city’s zoning code, as the code prohibits any land use prohibited by federal law.
The prohibition is in the city’s land use code and does not address the use or possession of marijuana by individuals. These matters are covered by state law.
City planning board rejects proposed marijuana regulations
In November, city voters will be asked to maintain the current ban on marijuana operations or allow them within city limits.
The city is also in dispute with a local marijuana store owner who wants to operate in the city and has challenged the city’s ban. The city is awaiting a decision from the judge, which could be issued soon, according to city attorney Jeff Hindoien.
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In August, some commissioners discussed a desire to expand dispensary allocation to commercial and mixed-use neighborhoods.
In response, staff updated the proposed regulations to include these districts.
In August, the planning board voted not to recommend these bylaws be approved, but did not make any recommendations on what the rules should be.
Residents demand to send marijuana question to November county ballot
At their Sept. 7 meeting, commissioners Susan Wolff and Rick Tryon said they wanted to revert to the version that limited marijuana operations to industrial districts to begin with.
Wolff said they could expand it to other zoning districts later if necessary, but it would be harder to roll back if they adopted broader rules initially.
“We zone it so we can dip our toes in the water,” Wolff said.
Commissioners Eric Hinebauch and Joe McKenney said they wanted to treat marijuana dispensaries similar to offsite liquor sales or other retail businesses.
County sends local marijuana tax question to November ballot
During the meeting, a handful of people spoke in favor of the broader zoning district allocations, but a number of people demanded that the commissioners restrict them to industrial districts if the court or voters said that these operations should be allowed in the city.
Beth Morrison of Alliance for Youth said there were already 11 dispensaries in the county and asked commissioners to consider capping in the city and increasing the distance from schools and churches.
Dispensary owners file lawsuit challenging city’s marijuana sales ban
Those who asked the city to approve the version that would allow dispensaries in commercial or mixed-use neighborhoods said they want to make marijuana more accessible to people with specific medical needs.
The city enacted its marijuana ban in 2010 when the state legalized medical marijuana and that ban went unchallenged until this year, staff say.
Mayor Bob Kelly attended the meeting by phone and said they had not heard of any access issues since 2010 until now.
Marijuana, municipal judge’s questions likely go to November ballot
He said voters have approved of legalizing marijuana and that means greater access, but he has also been approached by a number of people asking him to consider the impact on young people in the community. .
Kelly said they haven’t heard an outpouring from the community asking to allow dispensaries in commercial areas and that they may expand to those areas in the future.
Commissioners voted 3-2 to change the bylaw to limit the authorization of marijuana operations in industrial districts.
City commission upholds staff decision on dispensary and will send recreational marijuana to November ballot
Hinebauch and McKenney voted in opposition.
McKenney said landlords should be able to use their property as they wish as long as the use is legal.
“And the will of the voters, that does not count? It matters,” he said.
Once the amendment passed, McKenney said he would support it because that’s how the process works.
The version allowing marijuana only in industrial districts passed 4-1, with Hinebauch opposed.
Currently, the county does not tax marijuana sales and this issue will also be on the November ballot.
The county commission voted earlier this year to defer the issue of a 3% local tax on marijuana sales to the November ballot. If approved, the county would keep 50% of the tax, the state would collect 5%, and the remaining 45% would be split among the incorporated municipalities of Great Falls, Belt, Cascade and Neihart, depending on the county.
County argues commercial marijuana operation in mixed-use district is illegal
In June, the county attorney’s office told the county commission they estimated $1.6 million in monthly marijuana sales in Cascade County, which the 3% tax would equate to about $50,000. at the county level which would be distributed among the municipalities of the county.
Area residents were also gathering signatures on a petition to send a similar question about whether commercial marijuana operations should be allowed in the county in the November ballot. They failed to collect enough signatures, according to the county elections office.
The county attorney holds this petition required to send the marijuana issue to the ballot
According to legal requirements, the petitioners had to collect approximately 8,000 valid signatures.
As of August 16, they had submitted 809, according to the elections office.