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Medical marijuana ordinance in Independence could face lawsuit

Missouri House votes to legalize medical marijuana
Posted at 6:51 PM, Oct 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-21 17:38:56-04

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — Cities across Missouri are figuring out where to place medical marijuana facilities after a state-wide vote to allow them.

The state put in guidelines to not allow the facilities to be within 1,000 feet of churches, schools or daycares, but cities can propose their own ordinances that are more lenient.

There's concern in Independence, where some say the ordinance is unconstitutional.

The city set the guidelines at the maximum distance from those entities, but also added a special use permit that prevents the facilities from being placed within 1,200 feet of the Truman Library Instutute and 500 feet from any house.

"If I say you can’t have a marijuana dispensing facility within 500 feet of residential, where in goodness' name are they going to go in our city?" Councilwoman Karen DeLuccie said.

The reason why the council decided to add the extra regulations is because they wanted to be careful, she explained.

"We were cautious, we were overly cautious," DeLuccie said.

Now, she wants to get rid of the special use permit in fear that it could be unconstitutional and to avoid lawsuits.

Antonette DuPree, a partner with Spark Legal Solutions LLC, is representing Jon Lowe of Mantis 9 as he tries to get his medical marijuana license in Independence. He is following the state's guidelines, but he wouldn't be able to work in Independence.

"So, if he is not able to open up his business on account of this unconstitutional — what we believe to be unconstitutional — zoning ordinance, then that may be the next step," DuPree said about a possible lawsuit.

If the city essentially bans the marijuana facilities within the city limits, DuPree argues it's the city who will lose in the end.

"Independence residents are not going to profit off of and benefit from tax revenue in the city of Independence that will necessarily, that may come out of medicinal marijuana," he said.

That scenario is one reason DeLuccie wants to align with what the state's constitution states.

"The problem is, by inserting a special use permit control of where those businesses locate is vested in seven people sitting on that dais, and that’s not what this constitutional amendment envisioned, and it’s not what we should do," DeLuccie said.

There's a public meeting that will take place at 6 p.m. Monday night at the Independence City Hall on the topic.

Public comment is expected on the ordinance, as well as a final vote by the council members.