The Ada City Council decided Monday to hold off on approving regulations for medical marijuana-related businesses, giving officials more time to research the issue.
The council voted 5-0 to table an ordinance that spelled out permitting and licensing requirements for commercial growers and medical marijuana dispensaries. The issue will be placed on the council’s Dec. 3 agenda for further discussion.
As written, the ordinance does not include any zoning restrictions on medical marijuana-related businesses except for a provision that bars such businesses from setting up shop within 1,000 feet of a public or private school, which reflects state law. The Ada Metropolitan Area Planning and Zoning Commission is slated to discuss zoning regulations for medical marijuana Nov. 15.
The Rev. Brad Graves, the senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Ada, urged the city council to consider revising the ordinance to add setbacks for preschools, day care centers and churches. He noted that his church hosts a program for people recovering from substance abuse, who might be tempted to stray if they had to walk by a medical marijuana dispensary on their way to a church.
“I’m grateful — I’m so grateful that you people put this (a buffer zone) around the schools,” Graves said. “I’m very grateful for that. But our children are just as vulnerable, and our churches and our preschools and our daycares. And also, don’t neglect Celebrate Recovery and recovery systems.”
The proposed ordinance includes the following provisions:
• Anyone who wants to operate a dispensary within the city limits must have a valid commercial establishment license from the Oklahoma Department of Health. The operator must supply a copy of that license to the city before opening for business.
• Dispensary owners must also obtain a dispensary permit from the city. A city inspector will inspect the property where the dispensary is located to ensure compliance with city codes.
• Owners must pay a $1,250 application fee, which will be used to cover the city’s licensing, inspection and other costs. The city will also charge a $1,250 annual renewal fee.
• Dispensary permits will not be granted if the location is within 1,000 feet of a public or private school or is not allowed under city zoning regulations.
The ordinance applies the same provisions to commercial growing operations and marijuana processors. In addition, commercial growers must be located within a completely enclosed structure, which must be built so that medical marijuana plants are not visible to the public.
Commercial growing facilities must be properly vented to avoid mold and other problems, and they must be conducted in a way that does not create a public nuisance.
The councilmen wondered how far they could go in regulating medical marijuana operations without violating State Question 788, which bars cities from unduly changing or restricting zoning laws to stop retail marijuana businesses from opening.
“How do we follow the law and effectively regulate this in our community?” said Councilman Bryan Morris.
At one point, Councilman Guy Sewell asked city attorney Frank Stout to draw up another ordinance for the council to consider. That ordinance would bar medical marijuana businesses within 300 feet of churches, just like the city requires 300-foot setbacks for liquor stores and bars.
“Yes, we’re probably going to get sued, but I think that’s defensible,” Sewell said.