City holding public hearing on sending marijuana to November ballot
City Commissioners will hold a public hearing during their Aug. 2 meeting on whether to send the question of legalizing marijuana operations within the city limits to the November ballot.
The current city code prohibits marijuana activities such as sales, cultivation and manufacturing within the city limits since it’s a prohibited substance under federal law.
The prohibition is in the city land use code and does not address the use or possession of marijuana by individuals. Those issues are covered under state law.
The question to voters on the November ballot, as proposed, would be:
The proposed amendment that would go to the voters is:
- “17.4.070 – Relationship of this title to other regulations. In addition to meeting the regulations contained in this title, development shall comply with all applicable regulations of federal and state agencies. In all cases, the strictest of the applicable provisions shall apply. No use of land shall be permitted by right or conditionally permitted within the incorporated city limits that is in violation of federal, state or local law. This prohibition includes, but is not limited to, any use of land for the marijuana business categories otherwise authorized by Mont. Code Ann. Title 16, Chapter 12, Parts 1 through 5 and Admin. R. Mont. § § 42.39.401 et seq.”
- “17.20.3.070 – Prohibited land uses. No use of land shall be permitted by right or conditionally permitted within the City of Great Falls that is in violation of federal, state or local law. This prohibition includes, but is not limited to, any use of land for the marijuana business categories otherwise authorized by Mont. Code Ann. Title 16, Chapter 12, Parts 1 through 5 and Admin. R. Mont. § § 42.39.401 et seq.”
If a majority of voters approve the proposed amendment, the city code will continue to prohibit any commercial marijuana business within the city limits.
If a majority of voters don’t approve the proposed amendment, the commissioners will consider a regulatory framework under which various commercial marijuana businesses would be allowed to operate within the city limits.
During their Aug. 2 work session, staff will present their proposed regulatory framework to commissioners. That framework would only be enacted if a majority of voters opt to legalize marijuana activities within the city limits.
The framework as proposed by city staff would amend city code to include state law definitions of authorized commercial marijuana activities; all commercial marijuana activities would be subject to state law licensure requirements; and those marijuana activities cannot be within 500 feet of and on the same street as a building used exclusively as a place of worship or school other than a commercially operated school, unless the locality requires a greater distance.
City staff’s proposed framework would make state-licensed marijuana activities a permitted or conditional use in the city’s industrial zoning districts.
Under the proposal, dispensaries, testing laboratories would be allowed as a permitted use in either light or heavy industrial districts.
Cultivation would be a conditional use in light industrial districts and a permitted use in heavy industrial districts.
Manufacturing would be a permitted use only in the heavy industrial districts.
The city’s industrial districts are primarily located on the northern and eastern edges of town, though there are some around the refinery and along the railroad corridor.
The proposed framework for marijuana operations will go before the city planning board during their Aug. 9 meeting and to the city commission for a first reading at their Aug. 16 meeting and for a vote at their Sept. 6 meeting.
Currently, the city receives no tax revenue from marijuana sales.
The state taxes marijuana but the city, county and school district don’t get those revenues.
The state law includes a provision that local governments could enact a 3 percent local option tax in marijuana sales.
The county has to send that question to the ballot and Cascade County Commissioners have opted to send that to the November ballot.
If approved, the county will keep 50 percent of those revenues, five percent goes to the state and the other 45 percent will be split among the incorporated municipalities in the county based on population. That includes Great Falls, Belt, Cascade and Neihart.
The city is also likely to send proposed charted amendments to the November ballot and the county elections office estimates the cost to the city for those two ballot questions to be $40,000 to $45,000.