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Bozeman issues proposed medical marijuana rules

June 30, 2010

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Posted: Wednesday, June 30, 2010 1:30 pm

Big Sky News Service | 0 comments

The draft of a Bozeman city ordinance released Thursday regulating medical marijuana calls for continuing a 1,000-foot buffer between schools and cannabis shops, city inspections of shops and a ban on public use of the drug, among other things.

The ordinance was crafted by city officials over the past three and a half months with input from medical marijuana providers, police, school officials and other stakeholders.

Under the proposal, it would be a misdemeanor for patients to smoke medical marijuana in “an open or visible manner,” City Attorney Greg Sullivan said during a press conference Thursday afternoon. The offense could result in a $500 fine and up to 6 months in jail.

“The reason behind that is to make sure that the line between what’s legal under state law and not legal under state law is kept as clear as we can get it,” he said.

It would be difficult for law enforcement to check medical marijuana cards for everyone smoking marijuana in public, Sullivan said. And the restriction helps address concerns in the community about how visually prominent medical marijuana will become, he said.

The Bozeman City Commission will ultimately decide in a few weeks whether the ordinance will stick, but overall, some local cannabis providers say they’re OK with the restrictions, including the public-use ban.

“To me, that’s understandable,” said Robert Carpenter, president of A Kinder Caregiver, Inc. “People don’t walk down the streets popping their prescription pills in their mouths. We don’t need people walking down the street with a big joint in their mouths acting like idiots.”

Some cities, such as Great Falls, have adopted all-out bans of medical marijuana shops.

“(Bozeman officials) worked with us,” Carpenter said. “We came to terms that I think everyone can live with.”

16 LICENSED SO FAR

As of the end of May, there were 497 medical marijuana providers, also called caregivers, and 2,344 registered patients in Gallatin County.

In Bozeman, as of Wednesday, the city had approved 16 business licenses for medical marijuana shops — 10 within city limits and six outside, according to Brit Fontenot, assistant to the city manager.

Caregivers are required to have a city business license if they deliver medical marijuana into the city, or do any business in the city.

Four more license applications for shops — all within city limits — are currently under review, Fontenot said.

The city issued its first license for a cannabis shop in September, when the words “medical marijuana” couldn’t be found in city code. Since then, the applications have continued to roll in. The city issued its first license for a cannabis shop in September, when the words “medical marijuana” couldn’t be found in city code. Since then, the applications have continued to roll in.

Montana voters passed an initiative legalizing marijuana for medical use in 2004. But growers kept their operations out of sight until the federal government announced in October that people following their state’s laws won’t be prosecuted.

ZONING

The Bozeman City Commission in March approved an emergency, interim zoning ordinance stipulating that stores selling medical marijuana must be at least 1,000 feet away from schools and daycares.

The permanent ordinance proposal drops the daycare requirement.

Sullivan said the city thought that would be too difficult to enforce because it would be too hard to keep track of daycares’ locations.

“Those things change all the time,” he said.

The school-zone restriction remains, however, and city officials spelled out a ban on medical marijuana shops on Main Street between Grand and Rouse avenues.

The school and downtown restrictions come on top of existing zoning requirements for businesses in Bozeman. Existing rules governing medical offices are interpreted to prohibit medical marijuana shops from operating in homes, Sullivan said.

Medical marijuana patients could still grow medical marijuana in their own home — patients can legally grow up to six plants at their residence — but caregivers could not operate out of neighborhoods, Sullivan said. Providers can grow six plants for every patient they have.

Growing medical marijuana is currently and would continue to be allowed in areas zoned residential-suburban, where agricultural uses are permitted.

PROVIDERS WANT RULES

Carpenter and Blake Ogle, vice president of A Kinder Caregiver and secretary of the Montana Medical Growers Association, said they welcome the new rules.

Their storefront has been located in an office building in north Bozeman on West Griffin Drive for two years and they said they have more than 250 patients. They said they expect to be regulated just like any other legitimate business.

“We have a complete opendoor policy for law enforcement,” Carpenter said. “If they have any problems, they can always call us and we’ll let them right in.”

The two grow the marijuana for their business outside of town and inside the shop, there is no marijuana is visible. There are waiting rooms with leather couches and a television for patients to watch while they await their appointment.

Carpenter said patients get printed receipts and they keep records with QuickBooks accounting software.

Patients have to have an appointment to be on the premises and they must have scheduled it 24 hours ahead of time, he said. Patients also are allowed to buy up to one ounce of marijuana per week.

“We’re really trying to build a better, professional look to this,” Carpenter said.

“We’re not bad people” Ogle said. “We’re out here offering an alternative treatment to people who have not had much luck with the treatment they’ve been under.”

Ogle said their company has grown to include 22 employees and created jobs.

INSPECTION

City officials are proposing to charge $100 for a business license for medical marijuana business — made up of a $25 administrative fee and a $75 inspection fee.

As a condition of the license, a city employee, including the city code enforcement officer and police, would be allowed to inspect the medical marijuana business without giving them prior notice.

Businesses where medical marijuana is stored or grown must be secured by a physical barrier, locks and a 24-hour alarm system. And, all marijuana must be kept in a security safe.

The city’s building inspection department would also give the business a once-over and to see if any changes to the structure comply with the ordinance.

PUBLIC USE

The ordinance is designed to keep the use of medical marijuana in the privacy of people’s homes, Sullivan said.

“The commission is going to have to look at that,” Sullivan said. “We’ll put that in front of them and we’ll see what they say.”

The proposed ordinance states that public areas include “any highway, road, driveway, alley, lane, parking area, sidewalk, park, trail, or other public or private place within the city of Bozeman that is adopted and fitted for the use of the public and that is in common use by the public.”

The proposed penalty, $500 in fines and up to 6 months in jail, is the standard punishment for a misdemeanor, he said.

People will also not be allowed to smoke marijuana inside the shops, as the city considers that a violation of the Montana Clean Indoor Air Act, Sullivan said.

The Bozeman City Commission is scheduled to review the draft and consider provisionally adopting it July 12. The ordinance could become final as early as late August, or 30 days after it receives a second review and final adoption from the commission.

The interim zoning ordinance the commission passed in March expires Sept. 11.

See original posting:http://http://www.belgrade-news.com/business/article_dbee5b30-848f-11df-9a47-001cc4c03286.html

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