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City Beat: Council considers medical marijuana regulations

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As the city of Springfield prepares for the state implementation of medical marijuana in June, council members April 8 held a first reading and public hearing on proposed regulations.

Springfield City Council voted on two amendments to a proposed zoning ordinance for medical marijuana cultivation, testing, manufacturing, post-extraction and dispensary facilities. One amendment passed and the other failed.

Councilman Craig Hosmer made a motion for an amendment regarding the proposal’s 200-foot separation from churches, schools and day care centers. He requested a 1,000-foot separation from dispensaries and post-extraction facilities, such as bakeries, confectionaries or producers of ointments and other marijuana-infused products.

“If we place them within 200 feet of a school and we have problems, we’re not going to be able to back that up because then they have a right to that location and right to that facility,” he said. “We can always move closer.”

David Brodsky, a current resident of Colorado, addressed council on the distance requirement in the Centennial State. He has worked in the medical marijuana industry for eight years and is a former planning and zoning commissioner in Columbia, Missouri.

“Schools are the primary concern with day cares being a close second,” he said of Colorado’s zoning regulations. “One-thousand feet is typical for both schools and day cares, especially when using a walking distance measurement instead of a radius.”

Brodsky told council he works with and represents two Springfield residents who are attempting to attain a medical marijuana infused-product manufacturing license to establish a business in the area.

Brodsky said he fully supported Hosmer’s amendment, before council voted in a 4-4 tie. It ultimately failed because city statute requires a majority vote. Hosmer and council members Phyllis Ferguson, Richard Ollis and Ken McClure voted in favor of the amendment. Councilwoman Jan Fisk was absent.

The second proposed amendment, by Councilman Tom Prater, was a recommendation from the Planning & Zoning Commission to remove limitations on hours of operation for medical marijuana facilities, such as dispensaries.

Stephanie Stenger Montgomery, a real estate developer with Springfield Land LP, questioned why operation hours would be limited for a dispensary when they aren’t for pharmacies.

“People work their different shifts, people have different life hours that they’re working and people need to fill their medications,” she said. “I don’t see how medical marijuana is any different than filling an opioid prescription.”

The limitation on hours was approved 7-1, with Hosmer against.

Council plans to vote on the amended medical marijuana zoning ordinance April 22.

Of the dozen speakers who addressed council, no one spoke in opposition to the proposed medical marijuana ordinance.

“When we try to compare this industry to an alike industry, it seems like everyone agrees it should be zoned like a pharmacy. That is basically what it is,” said Justin Petrillo, co-founder of The Wholesome Bud Co. LLC in Springfield. “Pharmacies have zero restrictions from distances to anything, but still, I think a good compromise seems to be to restrict it like a liquor store, which is 200 feet.”

According to Wholesome Bud CEO Desmond Morris, the company plans to cultivate, manufacture and dispense medical marijuana in Springfield. Morris said the company, which registered with the state of Missouri in January, has narrowed its search to two sites.

Drs. Jim Blaine and Chris Stout told council about the medical benefits of marijuana for their patients and the difficulty working with a substance not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Stout, a Mercy surgeon in Springfield, Saint Robert and Branson, said he would switch patients to medical marijuana from opioids, noting through his research, he estimates around 60,000 patients would benefit from medical marijuana in Missouri.

Brodsky said Springfield is taking the necessary steps to prepare for implementation of medical marijuana. He also was involved in the licensing process in Illinois five years ago, where he said the scarcity of licenses created a more competitive landscape than in Missouri.

“Springfield city staff has really been on top of this by getting local rules and regulations out early so businesses have plenty of heads up to find real estate and comply,” Brodsky said.

Rezoning bills
In northeast Springfield, a proposal to rezone 40 acres at 1777 N. Packer Road and the 2800 block of East Blaine Street was submitted by Ozarks Coca-Cola/Dr Pepper Bottling Co.

The company plans to expand its operations to adjacent property to the west near a city-owned detention basin. In the meanwhile, Ozarks Coca-Cola officials would like to remove the single-family residential zoning so the entire site is zoned general manufacturing, according to city documents.

Company Vice President and Chairman Sally Hargis has told P&Z commissioners the Coca-Cola franchise is outgrowing its warehouse space, according to city documents.

In another rezoning request, Springfield Public Schools seeks to change an acre at 529 W. Division St. to a general retail district from single-family residential. It was previously the site of an elementary school, said city Planning and Development Director Mary Lilly Smith, and is currently used as a maintenance facility.

Smith said SPS plans to sell the property.

According to city documents, the rezoning plan calls for construction of a retail store.

Council is scheduled to vote on both rezoning bills April 22.

Grants accepted
Council unanimously approved nearly $1.4 million in Community Development Block Grants and $976,000 in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Home funds. The CDBG funds are planned for the Comprehensive Housing Assistance program, administration, planning and neighborhood conservation, and for Community Partnership of the Ozarks’ One Door program. Home funds are designated for affordable housing and public service projects to benefit low-to-moderate income persons.

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