Missoula City Council has passed an ordinance requiring all new cannabis dispensaries opening in city limits in 2022 to adhere to certain regulations. This includes being at least 150 meters away from other such businesses and not having frosted glass shop windows.
With a 6-4 vote Monday night, the council voted to amend the Title 20 Zoning Ordinance of Missoula Township Act.
All new cannabis dispensaries must be within 150 feet of other cannabis dispensaries unless they are already operational and “grandfather”.
Also, new pharmacies are prohibited from having the frosted glass display windows that are common in many of the existing pharmacies. Again, the new law only applies to pharmacies that open after the New Year.
The regulation also prohibits the commercial cultivation or home-making of cannabis.
Another change means that grows of 1,000 square feet or less can operate in most commercial and mixed-use zones, but plants up to 2,500 square feet can only operate in commercial and industrial zones. Everything that is larger than 2,500 square meters must be in industrial areas.
City councilor Heidi West said the new law was the result of much research and intentions by city employees. She noted that the 150-foot buffer is designed to prevent marijuana stores from building up and the ban on milk windows is designed to keep pedestrians safe because people inside the stores can see the street. The part of the law that prohibits commercial self-cultivation is intended to preserve the neighborhood character and promote safety.
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“This ordinance does a really good job of bringing together the overwhelming support for Missoula County’s voters to approve adult cannabis as well as protecting the health and wellbeing of citizens in our community,” she said. “And it gives this new industry in Missoula predictability and structure.”
Councilor Sandra Vasecka wanted to get rid of the 500-foot buffer, the ban on frosted glass, and the ban on commercial home-growing. She said the government shouldn’t impose these restrictions on companies. For example, she said, frosted glass could be useful for many types of businesses, including gun stores and butchers, to keep children from looking inside.
“A lot of people don’t want to look at that stuff,” she said.
In the end, however, only council members John Contos, Heather Harp, Jesse Ramos and Sandra Vasecka voted against the new law.
Councilors Julie Merritt and Stacie Anderson said cannabis dispensaries could come up with other options besides frosted glass to keep things private.
Councilor Amber Sherrill said she was glad that recreational adult cannabis will be available to everyone over 21 in Missoula County starting January 1.
“I am very happy that we are at a point in history where we are finally legalizing something that we were previously unable to control and have tried to ruin countless lives,” she said.
In November, Missoula County voters approved a 3% excise tax on local cannabis products sold in the county.
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