Buchanan introduces draft of medical marijuana ordinance

Published 11:52 am Wednesday, June 28, 2017

After a few months of planning and deliberation, the Buchanan planning commission presented a public draft to the Buchanan City Commission.

The ordinance was up for formal introduction to the commission and to the public.

Under the current draft, the city will allow for a maximum of five permits for processors, secure transporters, provision centers and safety compliance facilities. A total of 15 permits will be available for growers, five of each type: Class A — 500 plants, Class B — 1,000 plants and Class C — 1,500 plants. The number of authorized facilities will be reviewed at least once per year. Facilities that receive a permit will pay a nonrefundable fee of no more than $5,000.

Applications for permits must be made in writing to the Buchanan city clerk. Permits must then be approved by the city commission after receiving a recommendation by the Buchanan planning commission and after receiving approval for a license by the state. Permits will be automatically renewed for one year by the city, assuming there are no uncured violations from within the past year, and all fees and taxes have been paid.

City Commissioner Pat Moore was dubious of automatic renewal of permits, as she wanted to ensure that inspections of facilities are taking place prior renewal.

“My concern is, where’s the opportunity on the renewal for us, as a community, to have a weigh-in?” she said. “It’s not listed here. If there isn’t some overt violation, there’s no opportunity for that person to come before us [as a commission].

“I want the chance that, if we do give some of this privilege of operating within the city, and [applicants] take advantage of that and [do] not do things the right way, I want to [as a commission] have a voice. And I want the citizens to have a voice.”

City Zoning Administrator Deb Patzer assured Moore that inspections may happen at any time, but she would add additional text to the proposed ordinance to clarify that fact.

To be approved as an applicant, an individual has to have a squeaky-clean record. For example, they may never have been arrested for, charged with, pled guilty to or had a criminal offense expunged from a felony or a controlled substance-related misdemeanor.

Employees of a facility also face a rigorous background check and may not have any pending charges or convictions within the last 10 years for controlled substance-related felonies.

Moore was also concerned about the lack of definition in Section 4(B)(13), under requirements an medical marijuana facility applicant must have, which simply reads, “A crisis response plan.” Moore wanted to make sure there would be guided paperwork for applicants to follow to have a crisis response plan and have it referred to in the ordinance.

“[The crisis response plan] was a suggestion that was made by the mayor that we [the planning commission] felt was a good addition,” said City Zoning Administrator Deb Patzer. “We will have to add the verbiage to that that tells [applicants] specifically what they have to have. [The commission] can come back and amend the ordinance to add that.”

However, not all members of the council have been happy with how many revisions the medical marijuana ordinance draft has gone through, and how long the process has taken. Councilman Dan Vigansky became visibly irritated during the meeting at how long the process has taken and took a shot at the attendance of some members of the planning commission at regular meetings.

“I don’t want this to be taken the wrong way, but I have sat and watched grass grow. And I don’t really want to watch grass grow now,” he said. “We need to make [the planning committee] attendance compliant. I know they’re very, very busy. But if they can’t [make it to meetings] they need to step down.

“There’s a couple of them that haven’t made meetings, and then they don’t come ready. At all,” he said. “They spend half of the meeting just trying to catching up.”

Councilman Dale Toerne, who also serves on the planning commission, defended the folks on the planning commission.

“We have several qualified people on the planning commission, and without their help, the city would be in dire straits,” he said. “[The members of the planning commission] are very intelligent and forward thinking.

“[Serving on the planning commission is] also a volunteer position. That means no pay,” he said. “These are businessmen who know their stuff.”

City Manager Bill Marx, however, believes that the medical marijuana ordinance is on the right track and does not want to rush into a vote.

“We’ve started the process, we want to get it right,” Marx said. “I think it’s going to be a great document, and it won’t be that open to a lot of interpretation.”

Councilwoman Carla Cole did not want to rush the process either.

“I don’t want to rush through this [process]. I want to make sure we have it right,” she said. “We might see the grass grow a little bit underneath us, but we can always trim it.”

The current draft is available for review at city hall, and a complete copy may be obtained from the city clerk. The current draft will be returned to the planning commission for revisions before being reviewed by the commission again. The planning commission has yet to submit recommendations for potential zoning ordinances for medical marijuana facilities.