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Despite constitutional concerns, Independence votes down changes to medical marijuana zoning

Posted: 6:03 PM, Oct 21, 2019
Updated: 2019-10-22 00:57:17-04
Missouri voters pass Amendment 2, legalizing medical marijuana

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A legal battle could be looming over restrictions the Independence City Council has placed on medical marijuana businesses within city limits.

Independence City Council members voted to keep some of the state’s restrictive guidelines Monday as the medical marijuana industry begins to ramp up across Missouri.

On a 4-2 vote, the City Council voted to keep a 1,000-foot buffer for medical marijuana facilities from schools, churches and day cares along with additional buffers of 500 feet from residences and 1,200 feet from the Truman Library Institute despite claim those restrictions are unconstitutional.

“They’ve zoned it out of most of the city, so the people who are approved on their applications for zoning — and there would be very few — would have pretty much a monopoly and it would be at the edge of the city," longtime Independence resident Debra Holmes said, adding that the ordinance creates an unconstitutional undue burden.

Holmes said the new state law, which voters overwhelmingly approved in November 2018, cannot place an undue burden on patients or businesses.

“I smell foul,” Holmes said. “I’m sorry I just do.”

Holmes' main argument is the zoning, saying medical marijuana establishments will be barred from primary commerce corridors like Noland Road and U.S. 24.

"I think the neighborhood needs to have some input to a business that operates 100% on cash and operates selling a substance that is against federal law," Councilman Curt Dougherty said.

Councilman Scott Roberson, on the other hand, said the state guidelines were fine and "it's in the constitution now, so they don't have a choice."

“Originally, when it was brought to the City Council, it seemed like a good idea, because we could have a little more say as to what went on in Independence,” Councilman Scott Roberson said. “However, with all the political things that go on, it seems that there may be a little more politics to it than just that, and I think we ultimately need to just stick to the state guidelines and go with the state guidelines and be legal. I don’t want anything to put the city at risk and have any liability for the city.”

Roberson admitted that the city’s ordinance as it stands now “will greatly limit the accessibility and the location of medical marijuana facilities in independence.”

The City Council, which passed the original ordinance in July, was expected to pass an amended ordinance Monday that would add a definition of a medical marijuana transportation; keep the buffer for schools, churches and day cares at 1,000 feet; and eliminate the additional buffers for the Truman Library Institute and residences.

That likely would have headed off the possibility for litigation.

Instead, it seems likely a legal challenge is coming.

The first dispensaries are expected to open across the state in the spring of 2020.