LIBERTY — In June, the Liberty City Council will either follow along with state guidelines for medical marijuana facilities or alter where facilities can be in relation to places like schools and churches in an attempt to better fit the city.
Katherine Sharp, the city’s planning and development director, said while the city cannot curtail medical marijuana, it can regulate “time, place and manner” of the operation of the medical marijuana facilities as long as the regulations aren’t “unduly burdensome on the operation” per state law.
When Amendment 2 passed Nov. 6, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services worked on drafting rules for implementation. On Monday, May 20, the council held a study session to discuss stipulations the city can control.
One regulation that spurred discussion was the 1,000-foot buffer between medical marijuana facilities and schools, day cares and churches currently outlined in the state law’s draft language. The city is considering changing the buffer before the state’s medical marijuana program rules are finalized.
Councilman Kevin Graham suggested dropping the buffer to 100 feet while Councilmen Jeff Watt and Harold Phillips suggested maintaining the 1,000 feet.
“I don’t think there will be hundreds of licenses for facilities in the next five years,” Graham said.
Sharp reminded the council there are strict guidelines for the sale of medical marijuana.
“This is a serious business,” she said. “People will first have their medical card given to them, which will define how much marijuana they are allowed. It will be dispensed accordingly. These dispensaries aren’t easily accessible. There are entry doors and then another door to have access with an employee of the dispensary.”
Councilman Paul Jenness said medical marijuana is now a constitutional matter and was passed by a significant margin of Missouri voters.
“It’s heavily regulated,” he said. “I think the 100-foot buffer is fine.”
Councilman Gene Gentrup also suggested a 100-foot setback.
“Growing up, I was taught this was a bad drug,” Councilman Rae Moore said, adding her thoughts on marijuana as medicine were altered after her husband and former Councilman Jeff Moore died.
“When Jeff got sick, this would have been good. I think we should lower the buffer to either 100 or 300 feet like North Kansas City did,” she said.
Mayor Lyndell Brenton said he wants to see what other cities around Liberty are also considering for their setbacks.
Facility hours of operation also were a topic of discussion among city leaders. A suggestion of 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. was made for the marijuana facilities.
“I don’t want this to be a burden for our law enforcement,” Brenton said.
Sharp said the hours of operation are designed for shift workers who work a nontraditional schedule.
Several councilmen asked for limited hours such as closing at 7 p.m. or opening later in the morning.
“We do have regulations that the dispensaries will follow about signs and where they are able to be placed in the city,” Sharp said. “We have added 20 new definitions to the city code to better define this new facility.”The city is expected to finalize it’s facility allowance plans by the end of June or early July. The state will begin accepting patient applications starting July 4 and business applications beginning Aug. 3. Dispensaries will be operational in 2020.