RONAN – County and city government officials met on October 6 at the Ronan Community Center to discuss concerns and important changes that will result from the legalization of recreational marijuana in Montana.
One thing is for sure: No matter what you think of marijuana use, it’s a topic everyone will be talking about and talking about. Everyone who attended the meeting agreed that it is best to anticipate and prepare for change. All are collaborating and using resources to develop strategies to address the problems of recreational marijuana and its impact on citizens.
Ed Meece, City Manager of Polson, led the discussion and introduced the topics of local cooperation, taxation, zoning and the thoughts and / or concerns of law enforcement and community members about the marijuana for recreational purposes.
“I’m a big believer in small open government, which is basically what I’ve been doing for the past 30 years,” Meece said. “I’m a guy from a small town who believes in the power of community and government collaboration. “
Lake County Commissioners Bill Barron, Steve Stanley and Gale Decker; Lake County Sheriff Don Bell; Michael Wheeler of the CSKT Legal Administration Department; the mayor of Ronan, Kim Aipperspach; and Barb Turner, a member of Polson’s Marijuana Task Force and owner of Alternative Relief in Polson, among others, attended the meeting and shared their concerns, questions and knowledge on the subject.
In the spring, Polson formed a Marijuana Task Force to study the legalization of marijuana and determine how the city would respond to the change, Meece said.
The task force is made up of a diverse group of people, including treatment professionals, Confederate Salish and Kootenai Tribes, St. Joseph Providence Health Care, local law enforcement, advocate for the Town of Polson and others who have conducted extensive research and developed preliminary strategies.
The Town of Polson intends to complete a draft strategy within the next week, which will be presented to the Town Commissioner (s) on October 18. Likely strategies, strategy changes and additions will be discussed.
Polson is working on a commercial license specific to marijuana. The working group is working on the conditions of the permit and the consequences of the obvious non-compliance with the conditions that could lead to the loss of the permit.
“We don’t have a business tax in town, and we’re not going to create one. We have one for alcohol and we will have one for marijuana, but it’s not something we will add to other businesses, ”said Mayor Ronan Aipperspach.
“I would like to see us unify and develop similar rules in neighboring areas to facilitate operations,” said Commissioner Barron.
Section 95 of House Bill 701 states that the rate of the local optional marijuana excise tax shall be established by the election petition or the resolution provided for in section [section 96], and the rate cannot exceed three percent.
This is a county-by-county decision, a citizens’ petition, or a confirmed county commission resolution. The town of Polson requests that Lake County commissions approve a resolution initiating a ballot, such as a ballot of all county elections regarding the issue of imposing a retail value tax on all products of marijuana and marijuana sold at the adult dispensary or medical dispensary. ; statutorily capped at three percent, to be conducted by a special ballot election in the first calendar quarter of 2022.
The town of Polson has agreed to contribute to the costs of the election by special ballot.
If and when a marijuana tax is passed, 45 percent of the resulting tax revenue must be distributed among municipalities based on the ratio of city or town population to total county population (HB 701).
The Town of Polson’s current plan is to add two new “uses” to the list of land uses permitted in the zoning code, such as adult dispensaries and the manufacture of marijuana, and to allow those uses in the Zoning Code. part of a special use conditional use in an area, but this remains to be determined. Right now, the conversation is that the City of Polson would only allow it in commercial areas, not residential areas.
“The idea is not to ban, but to prevent saturation,” Meece said. Missoula has the most medical dispensaries per capita in the United States. There are currently 55 medical marijuana dispensaries in Missoula County.
“If we had 8 or 10, that would be saturation,” Meece said.
It is possible to define a specific number for dispensaries, but it needs to be supported by research and data on why one number is allowed over another. Instead, how much per 1,000 people, or something like that is being discussed, as well as the use of a distance buffer for school and churches.
“You don’t want saturation like Missoula,” Aipperspach said. “It means more work for your police. ”
Lake County Sheriff Bell thinks he has a different perspective than city managers, mayors and county commissioners when it comes to recreational marijuana. “It’s more of a problem for us and my assistants. ”
Michael Wheeler of the CSKT’s legal administration department said the tribes had not taken any official action regarding marijuana. “What we’re looking for right now is fair application of the law,” said Wheeler.
CSKT talks to seniors and departments to see if they want to align with Montana law. “There are objections, but I believe the overwhelming thought process is that he’s here,” Wheeler said.
Because it’s here, and if it’s in the best interests of indigenous peoples, it needs to be addressed and considered.
The combined use license exists for tribes but for non-reservation dispensaries.
According to a member of the local community, there should be concerns and limitations regarding the location of clinics near schools, churches and perhaps even homeless shelters.
Perspective piece of the owner of the local medical dispensary:
“In this discussion, I hope everyone recognizes that these business owners are legal and good citizens with a great track record in the state of Montana,” said Barb Turner, member of the Task Force on Polson’s marijuana and owner of Alternative Relief in Polson. “I also hope that existing businesses can smoothly transition to legalization and that businesses already licensed to operate here will not have to reapply.”
“Even though we are marijuana business owners who have worked under strict guidelines for many years, we support the regulation of this law,” Turner said.
Turner also discussed home-grown marijuana and its many issues. “In your thoughts on how you are going to regulate local culture, one of the main concerns of a Colorado DEA officer is how local culture can affect the introduction of marijuana on the black market,” he said. Turner said.
On October 18, the Polson task force will meet to discuss the strategies recommended to the city commission. The Town of Polson website has useful information on these topics, and if one is interested in the topic, resources are available.
“I like the idea of collaborating,” Meece said. “When we’re all at the table, we’ll all enjoy it. “