STURGIS — The Sturgis City Council has approved the first reading of amendments to two ordinances which outline the zoning and licensing requirements and procedures for medical marijuana establishments within the city of Sturgis.
The city set the application fee at $7,500 annually for any cannabis cultivation, manufacturing, testing, or dispensing facilities.
There would be a cap of four licenses for dispensaries within the city limits, but licenses for cultivation, manufacturing, and testing establishments would not be limited.
The council voted 7-0 on both amendments with one abstention from council member Angela Wilkerson. Wilkerson said because she works in law enforcement and under federal law, marijuana is still classified as an illegal drug, she believed it better to abstain from voting on the issue.
The city had initially passed ordinances concerning medical marijuana believing that they should have guidelines in place until the state determined its rules for medical marijuana.
The Sturgis Planning Commission first discussed the amendment changes to the ordinances at its meeting on July 13 and then made recommendations to the city council.
Amendments to Title 39 Cannabis removed portions of the ordinance which were meant to be temporary and inserted requirements for licensing cannabis establishments.
Sturgis City Manager Daniel Ainslie explained that the planning commission came about limiting the number of dispensaries after significant discussion and a review of the number of establishments in other states.
The planning commission found that Colorado has 2,917 licensed marijuana businesses in the state. That is one business for every 1,974 residents. He said that due to the current federal standing of marijuana, businesses are largely cash based.
“History in other states have shown, similar businesses become highly targeted by criminals for robbery. It was believed that a smaller number of dispensaries would reduce the number potential sites that would require additional patrolling,” Ainslie said.
Title 18 concerning zoning included amendments to various zoning districts which would authorize zones where cannabis establishments would be allowed to operate.
The amendment authorizes cannabis growing operations in the industrial zone and testing and retail in commercial zones. It also states that no cannabis dispensary may operate within 200 feet of a residential zone within the city of Sturgis. And no cannabis dispensary may operate within 1,000 feet of another cannabis dispensary.
At one point in the discussions about cannabis dispensaries, the city had considered owning and operating a dispensary, similar to the city’s ownership of Sturgis Liquor. They had also considered owning the dispensary and leasing out the dispensary license to a private operator, similar to how the city of Brookings operates their liquor licensing.
Ainslie said either of those approaches would need state authorization.
“It is anticipated that the legislature will begin discussing these options in January of 2022. The city council will be able to discuss these types of alternatives if the state authorizes them in the future,” he said.
Mayor Mark Carstensen said all the work the city has done to protect and prepare themselves for medical marijuana may all be for naught.
“We’re doing all this and yet when January and February rolls around and the State Legislature meets, it all might change again. It’s a moving target,” he said.
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