City Begins Medical Marijuana Zoning Process

The City of Springfield has begun the process of deciding where in the city limits medical marijuana can be grown, processed, tested and sold.

City staff brought to City Council during the weekly lunch session outlines of changes to the city code to allow medical marijuana businesses to begin finding locations for a variety of functions. The move by the city is being done in anticipation of the state’s accepting of applications for medical marijuana licenses in August.

The location of the business is one of the major considerations of the state when awarding one of four categories of licenses related to marijuana.

The first proposal from city staff involves “Medical Marijuana Cultivation”, or the businesses that will be growing and harvesting the plant. These locations are state licensed to “acquire, cultivate, process, store, transport and sell marijuana to a medical marijuana dispensary facility, medical marijuana testing facility or to a medical marijuana-infused products manufacturing facility.”

The state has not yet issued final rules regarding these businesses, but city staff believe these growth factories will be limited to about 30,000 square feet of “plant canopy space” for an indoor facility or a limit of 2,800 flowering plants for an outdoor facility.

The city would restrict these businesses to highway commercial & commercial services districts; restricted industrial districts; light industrial districts; general manufacturing districts; and heavy manufacturing & industrial commercial districts. They will be required to be 1,000 feet from any school, day-care centers or churches.

Also, if they are located next to or across the street from a residential district, they will be required to get a conditional overlay from Planning and Zoning & the City Council. The overlay could require additional work from the business to control things such as odors released by the factory.

There will only be a few marijuana testing centers in the state, but city staff are hoping one will locate in Springfield because these will be highest paying jobs in the medical marijuana field. These facilities cannot be co-housed with another medical marijuana related facility and they cannot be owned by any company that also is connected to a different category of medical marijuana business.

City staff will be proposing that these businesses be limited to light industrial, restricted industrial, general manufacturing, heavy manufacturing and industrial commercial zones. They will also have a 1,000 foot separation from schools, day-care centers and churches.

Medical Marijuana-Infused Manufacturing facilities will acquire, store, manufacture, transport and sell marijuana-infused products to a dispensary, testing facilities, or to another manufacturing facility. (They cannot sell to patients.)

City staff said because the manufacturing process involves the use of butane and other hazardous substances, these facilities would be limited to general manufacturing and heavy manufacturing districts. They will be required to be 1,000 feet from schools, day-care centers and churches. There will also be a conditional use permit required if next to a residential section.

When approaching two other medical marijuana facilities, the city staff is recommending a smaller distance from schools and other facilities.

Medical Marijuana Post-Extraction facilities are businesses such as bakeries or producers of ointments that contain cannabis oil. Each one of these businesses will be individually considered by city staff for whether it qualifies as a retail sales use group or industrial/wholesale activity. Where they can be located is dependent on the staff’s designation of the business, and they will only have to be 200 feet away from schools, day-care centers and churches.

Finally, Medical Marijuana Dispensaries. These facilities will be where “qualifying patients” can obtain their marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

The dispensaries will be located in general retail, highway commercial, commercial services, center city and Commercial Street districts. They will also be allowed in restricted industrial, light industrial, general manufacturing, heavy manufacturing and industrial commercial in the event a dispensary will be co-located with a manufacturing facility.

Dispensaries will not be allowed in limited business or office districts. They will also be allowed within 200 feet of a school, day-care or church.

During the meeting Councilman Hosmer asked why they should reduce the distance away from schools for any of the categories of business. Staff responded that keeping them all 1,000 feet would keep a dispensary from being able to locate in the center city area.

Police Chief Paul Williams mentioned during the city staff presentation that crime increases when medical marijuana is brought into a community. There are increases in crashes/DWI reports. A black market is created for the product for people who want to avoid paying the taxes that are placed on medical marijuana sold in the dispensaries. There are also arrests for smoking in public and private places where it’s illegal.

Williams noted that 66 percent of local jurisdictions in Colorado banned medical and recreational marijuana because of problems connected to it. (Missouri communities are prohibited by the constitutional amendment from banning medical marijuana.)