Rules for medical marijuana facilities in Wright City were finalized May 23, over the objection of an advocate who condemned the rules as discriminatory against cannabis patients.

Medical marijuana dispensaries and facilities that grow, manufacture or test marijuana products were added to the city’s planning and zoning code after a statewide vote in November 2018 legalizing medical marijuana. The zoning code restricts where certain types of businesses can be established, and sets conditions for being allowed to operate in Wright City.

The Wright City Board of Aldermen voted 4-0 to approve the new rules for medical marijuana businesses. They did not make any changes to draft rules published earlier in May.

Notably, aldermen left in place a prohibition on marijuana-related businesses within 1,000 feet of schools, churches and day cares. That buffer zone was established by Missouri voters in November, although individual cities are given the discretion to reduce or eliminate the buffer.

Kyle Kisner, deputy director of the marijuana advocacy group Greater St. Charles NORML, objected to having 1,000-foot buffer zones in such a small town, saying it would block off many areas in Wright City and calling the rule a “government overreach.”

“It could be interpreted as discriminatory toward people on the grounds of a pre-existing medical condition,” Kisner commented. “If CVS comes here, you’re not saying that they have a 1,000-foot buffer. You’re not asking any other pharmacy, the pharmacy downtown, to enforce the 1,000-foot buffer, and they deal in much harder stuff than we’re talking about here.”

Kisner also objected to Mayor Dan Rowden previously stating that the city needed to have the buffer zone to protect local children, saying state regulators are already mandating adequate protections. He asked the board to consider reducing the buffer to 150 or 200 feet.

Aldermen declined to make that change, with Rowden stating that the city’s decision isn’t an overreach because it uses the default buffer established by state law.

In addition to the 1,000 feet rule, the city will require every marijuana-related business to receive a conditional use permit from the board of aldermen. That means each business must come before the board to be individually approved and could be subject to additional restrictions.

Although the city isn’t allowed to place any “unduly burdensome” regulations on medical marijuana businesses, it has some leeway to set restrictions that protect surrounding property owners from potential nuisances.

Dispensary rules

Medical marijuana dispensaries are limited to areas that are zoned for general businesses, shopping centers and highway commerce. Notably, no dispensary will be allowed in Wright City’s downtown district.

Any dispensary will have to be licensed by the state and is restricted by the following rules:

• No outdoor operation or storage.

• No on-site usage of marijuana products.

• Hours of operation limited to 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Saturday. No sales permitted on Sundays. Nonemployees not allowed in the building after hours.

• Must have an odor control system as necessary to prevent odor from becoming a nuisance.

• Must meet security standards established by state regulation.

Industrial facility rules

Cultivation, product manufacturing, testing and transportation facilities for medical marijuana are all restricted to areas that are zoned for heavy industry under the new rules.

All facilities require an appropriate state license and are limited by the following restrictions:

• Cultivation allowed indoors only.

• No outdoor operation or storage.

• Odor control systems must meet minimum state standards and prevent nuisance for surrounding properties.

• No on-site marijuana usage except as authorized by state regulations at testing facilities.

• Facilities must be closed to the public from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. and meet the security standards established by state regulators.

• Testing facilities must maintain state accreditation.

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