Sturgis holds 1st reading for medical marijuana ordinance

Courtesy photo

STURGIS — The Sturgis City Council, on the recommendation of its planning commission, has passed the first reading of a temporary ordinance concerning medical marijuana.

The council met Monday night in a joint session with the Sturgis Planning & Zoning Commission to deal with the ordinance in hopes of passing the measure before medical marijuana becomes legal in South Dakota on July 1.

The city’s planning commission would ultimately determine where a medical marijuana dispensary could be located and the regulations under which they would operate.

The planning commission doesn’t necessarily have to provide guidance on the ordinance, however, out of an abundance of caution, and to ensure the greatest ability to survive any court challenge, the city wanted a recommendation to come first from the planning commission, according to Daniel Ainslie, city manager.

The temporary ordinance will ensure that more comprehensive zoning ordinance and building permit changes, licensing permits, and any proposed amendments to the city’s comprehensive plan can be completely examined with adequate public comment from citizens, business interests, and medical cannabis industry representatives, he said.

Passage of the ordinance Monday puts a moratorium on the issuance of any medical marijuana dispensary licenses until the state comes up with its rules later this year.  State officials have told municipalities it does not expect to have any rules in place until this fall.

The South Dakota Municipal League recommended that cities adopt temporary ordinances, however, before July 1. The recommendation originates from a concern that if a municipality does not have an adopted ordinance authorizing a rationale to deny an application for a dispensary license as of July 1, an applicant would not be able to be denied.

Sturgis businessman Max Fjelstad asked the planning commission and council members if they were referring to low amounts of THC in cannabis or high amounts when discussing regulations.

“I don’t know either. There’s a lot to this,” said Sturgis Planning Commission Chairman Bill Phillips. “Really what we are doing is getting something in place so that the city going forward has an ordinance that gives boundaries and gives people direction.”

Fjelstad wondered if that meant that the one license the city would have for a dispensary would be in the hands of the city.

Mayor Mark Carstensen said there would be no license issued until there is direction from the state.

Ainslie clarified that the city would ultimately make the decision on a dispensary license, but not until the state issues its regulations.

“There will be later action with the recommendation from the planning and zoning commission, then later action from the council that would determine how dispensaries would be located and operated,” he said.

Section 2 of the ordinance also clarifies the use of marijuana in any public space. Those areas include any property owned by the city of Sturgis, or public right of way, or other property generally open to or used by members of the general public.

“That is illegal in state statute and would continue to be illegal under city ordinance as well,” Ainslie said.

The ordinance also includes a clause which causes it to go into effect immediately to “protect and preserve the public health, safety, welfare, peace, and support of the municipal government and its existing public institutions.”

The planning commission and the city council both passed the ordinance unanimously. A second reading of the ordinance was set for the June 21 Sturgis City Council meeting.

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