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News (Media Awareness Project) - US MT: Hamilton City Council Considers Temporary Ban On
Title:US MT: Hamilton City Council Considers Temporary Ban On
Published On:2012-01-26
Source:Ravalli Republic (Hamilton, MT)
Fetched On:2012-01-28 06:03:48

With all the uncertainty surrounding state and federal medical
marijuana laws, the Hamilton City Council is considering a temporary
ban of new medical marijuana shops within the city limits.

At the council's Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday night,
council members instructed city attorney Karen Mahar to draft an
interim zoning ordinance that would prohibit the city from issuing
business licenses to new marijuana dispensaries for six months.

At Tuesday's meeting, Mahar brought the committee a draft ordinance
she and special projects manager Dennis Stranger have worked on since
late September.

But while discussing the state of flux the medical marijuana industry
is facing in Montana as laws get ironed out, the committee supported
creating an interim zoning ordinance instead.

"I think that'd be the way to go," said council president Jenny West.

Councilor Lynette Helgeland agreed.

"I think that'd be a lot safer than (the draft ordinance)," she said.

Councilor Joe Petrusaitis also said he'd be in favor of a temporary
restriction because it would buy the council time to work on a
permanent ordinance.

There is currently one licensed marijuana dispensary in Hamilton -
MDC Caregivers, at 1967 N. First Street. It would stay licensed under
an interim zoning ordinance. There is a second dispensary in the area
- - Old Wolves Caregiving - at 230 Marcus Street - but it is
technically outside the city limits.

The committee was worried about what lies in store for state marijuana laws.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy ruled that state laws
don't shield providers from federal prosecution. A referendum will be
before voters on November's ballot to repeal the current medical
marijuana laws, passed in the 2011 legislative session. A district
court judge in Lewis and Clark County then enjoined the state from
enforcing certain sections of the law.

"It's an area that's in a state of being modified," Mahar said.

Councilor Nancy Hendrickson said she would prefer working on a
permanent ordinance that could be modified as the law changes, rather
than an interim zoning ordinance. She wants to see a "reasonable"
attempt at a permanent ordinance.

"There is a legitimate need for (medical marijuana), it just got
distorted and needs to be fixed," Hendrickson.

In March of 2010, the city passed an interim zoning ordinance
restricting the location, hours, operation and licensing of medical
marijuana establishments.

Mahar and Stranger will continue working on drafts of both ordinances
and present them to the committee at its next meeting on Feb. 14.

Any proposed ordinances would go through a public hearing process
with the city council before being adopted.
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