City of Missoula begins drafting ordinance on recreational marijuana sales

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MISSOULA – City planners will begin drafting an ordinance governing the sale of recreational marijuana in Missoula and where these businesses can locate, hoping to have an ordinance in place by January 1, when the sale of pot will become legal.

Last year, voters in Missoula County overwhelmingly passed a statewide voting measure that gave every county the option of accepting the sale and use of marijuana for any purpose. recreational. With the sale date quickly approaching, the city plans to pass rules guiding the new industry in accordance with state law.

“Our team looked at our own regulations regarding how we have done things in the past with medical marijuana companies and looked at how other places have reacted to this type of legislation,” said said town planner Ben Brewer.

According to city officials, more than 70 marijuana-related companies are currently operating in the Missoula metropolitan area. Of these, about 50 serve as medical marijuana dispensaries while 20 operate as growers or serve other industry needs.

Under state law, existing medical marijuana businesses that were licensed before November 2020 can begin selling recreational marijuana on January 1. Further commercial licenses will be available to the general public for recreational sales on July 1.

To avoid any negative impact from the new industry, city council on Wednesday asked city planners to prepare an ordinance amending the city’s zoning code to indicate where a marijuana business can operate, from retail to cultivation and to the making.

The proposals for cultivation and manufacturing would define a business by the size of its operations and fall into a certain classification, ranging from cottage producers to large-scale manufacturing. The business would be authorized in certain zoning districts based on this classification.

But retail sales would be allowed in all districts, although the proposed ordinance would ban dispensaries from setting up within 500 feet of a school or church. A dispensary could also not sit within 500 feet of another dispensary.

The hope is to prevent the grouping of pot stores in one particular location.

“Our Hip Strip and our downtown area have already had a huge impact on the arrival of stores,” said Gwen Jones, board member. “In the space of 12 to 18 months, we’re seeing a huge shift in the downtown vibe, with marijuana shops coming in and loading medically before the January start date for recreation. “

Jones would like to see a buffer zone of over 500 feet. Under state law, distance is measured from one entrance to another.

“Right now with the 500 foot buffer, for the most part, it could be every block. I think it’s too close, ”Jones said. “I want to scatter them across Missoula, and creating a bigger buffer would create that incentive.”

Other measures could also be included, such as capping the number of marijuana businesses as a whole and limiting the number of “frosted” windows on any business.

Ensuring that the right end of the industry is located in the right area is also a goal of the proposed ordinance.

“A retail dispensary is best suited to commercial areas alongside other retail businesses,” said city planner Cassie Tripard. “But if they continue to cluster together, they will lead to a lack of diverse uses in that particular neighborhood, affecting the urban form and a lack of other amenities.”

On a 9-1 vote, city council members on Wednesday asked planning staff to prepare the new ordinance and schedule a public hearing for November. The matter will also go to town planning council and further consideration by city council with an expected adoption date set for November 29.


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