“Dueling” ideas about the legalization of marijuana led to a lengthy debate among the Wright City Board of Aldermen last week, resulting in a ban on all public usage that may be partially …
“Dueling” ideas about the legalization of marijuana led to a lengthy debate among the Wright City Board of Aldermen last week, resulting in a ban on all public usage that may be partially lifted in coming months.
In the wake of the 2022 amendment legalizing marijuana in Missouri, a number of cities are revising their local marijuana ordinances that were invalidated by the amendment. One of the primary goals for local governments is to clarify whether marijuana can be used or consumed in public places, a decision that the amendment leaves in the hands of local governments.
Under a bill proposed by Alderman Karey Owens on Feb. 9, smoking or consuming marijuana products would be banned in public places in Wright City, with the exception that properly licensed restaurants could serve marijuana-infused food and drink products. Owens said she agrees with some limitations on marijuana usage, such as no smoking in public, but that she doesn’t think the city should overly restrict something that voters chose to legalize.
“I put these (food) products in the same category as alcohol,” Owens commented. “I don’t want to lock down stuff just because of fear. I don’t want to say ‘It’s legal, but in Wright City we’re not going to allow businesses to offer products that are now open to them.”
Pushing back against that proposal was Alderman Ramiz Hakim, who put forward an alternate bill to ban all public consumption of marijuana in any form. Hakim explained that the passage of the marijuana amendment created a number of questions about what rules would constitute appropriate regulation of public usage.
Until Missouri’s state health department and courts provide some clarity, Hakim predicted that cities who legalize public usage will be targeted for lawsuits.
“Municipalities are going to get sued, because this is so open to interpretation, and these are not very clear guidelines,” Hakim argued. “Has anyone called the health department to see how this works with them? There’s no rules for this stuff.”
City Attorney Paul Rost added that the issue of regulation is particularly unclear when it comes to restaurants serving marijuana-infused products. There’s no available information about how those products are supposed to be licensed or monitored for health and safety, in contrast with things like alcoholic beverages, Rost stated.
“This whole thing about culinary (marijuana) and serving stuff in a restaurant, it’s mentioned one time in the whole constitutional amendment,” Rost said. “It’s not clear what license is even going to be used for this. It’s not even clear right now how a restaurant would do this.”
With all of these regulatory unknowns, Alderman Hakim advised that there’s no reason to rush into the issue. He advocated for maintaining a full ban on public usage until state regulators, and the state court system, resolve those unknowns.
“Let’s let other municipalities deal with that, and then we come back and make decisions based off of case law, instead of theory,” Hakim advocated.
Alderman Owens resisted the idea of an indefinite delay in legalizing marijuana-infused food products, saying that she didn’t want the issue to disappear and never come up again. However, she conceded that delaying at least a few more weeks could allow the city to get some questions answered.
Hakim proposed a compromise of instituting ordinances that would bring the city’s laws in compliance with the marijuana amendment and ban all public consumption, but then the board of aldermen would revisit legalizing marijuana-infused food and drink at their public meeting on March 9.
Owens begrudgingly agreed, and the board of aldermen approved Hakim’s proposal with a 4-0 vote.