State of Weed: Planning and zoning of medical marijuana facilities
OSAGE BEACH – Cities across the state of Missouri are getting ready for medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation facilities to call their communities home.
The planning and zoning of these facilities is a new challenge for the Osage Beach Board of Aldermen.
“I think there’s a lot of unknowns, that’s the biggest problem,” Mayor John Olivarri said. “When some of this stuff gets ferreted out and people have a better understanding of how all of this is going to work, they’ll have a little bit better feeling of it.”
The board met in early April to discuss exactly where the city will allow medical marijuana facilities. The biggest concern among the board and others who came to the meeting was “buffer zones”, areas close to churches, schools and day care centers.
Tim Anna, the lead pastor at Osage Beach First Assembly of God, said a proposed medical marijuana dispensary is 766 feet away from his church.
“It’s not necessarily that I’m against the medical marijuana coming into our community, it’s just that I think there are certain places that should still be sacred,” he said.
Anna said he worries churchgoers will see people going in and out of the dispensary. He hopes the buffer zone is expanded to 1,000 feet so the proposed dispensary would have to move to a different location.
“I would appreciate them being more considerate of the church communities,” Anna said.
Osage Beach is in congressional district 3. Each of the eight congressional districts in Missouri can have 24 medical marijuana dispensaries.
Olivarri said he doesn’t even know if Osage Beach will be chosen to get one, but he hopes rural areas are taken into consideration.
“We don’t know, but we also know they don’t want people to have to drive 100 miles, 200 miles, 300 miles to get the medical marijuana they need,” he said.
The board agreed to allow medical marijuana facilities in commercial and industrial areas of the city. Those areas are C-1, I-1 and I-2 in the colors red, dark blue and light blue below.
“We allow a corridor, which is our business corridor, which is where most of these stores would want to be anyway,” Olivarri said.
Susann Carter, who attended the meeting, said she isn’t as concerned about the placement of dispensaries as Anna is. She struggles with anxiety and panic problems and has a chronic problem with her hand.
“I’m looking for any type of help I can to make my pain and days easier,” she said.
Carter said she attends the meetings to learn as much as she can.
“I think there’s a stigma about marijuana, period,” Carter said. “Keep an open mind. I think a lot of people aren’t doing that right now, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
The city of Columbia is also finalizing its planning and zoning plans for medical marijuana facilities.
Patrick Zenner works with the planning and zoning commission and says he’s never been a part of a project quite like this before.
“I’ve been in the planning profession for 23-and-a-half years. Never in my life when I was a young planner did I think I would be dealing with drafting medical marijuana in the local zoning code,” he said.
Zenner said he’s lucky to have a co-worker from the Denver metro area who is familiar with the planning and zoning of medical marijuana facilities, but he hopes more members of the public come voice their opinions.
“As planners, we typically don’t try to reinvent the wheel. We just try to make it more round,” Zenner said. “But this will affect everyone in our community, so we would love to hear their thoughts.”
The community is invited to go to the planning and zoning commission’s meeting on May 9 to discuss the proposed plans. Zenner said the city council hopes to have the plans finalized by June 3.
It is important to remember it will likely be next year before any of the medical marijuana facilities open. Applications won't be accepted until August 3.