Mallory Herrmann

The Lee’s Summit City Council has put a 180-day administrative hold on applications related to medical marijuana activities. The city has been mindful of the possibility of legalization for the better part of 2018 and has been considering how to proceed as a city, now that statewide legalization of medical cannabis has been approved by voters.

At their Nov. 20 meeting, the council heard from City Attorney Brian Head and Assistant Fire Chief Jim Eden regarding some of the potential regulatory actions and consequences the city will need to consider.

Head reiterated that a draft ordinance accepted (but not approved) by the council in March that would outright prohibit the use of cannabis in the city could not be adopted, per a clause in the state’s amendment. The amendment allows cities to designate the “time, place and manner” in which cannabis can be sold and used within city limits, but that they cannot enact rules or regulations that will make it “unduly burdensome” for patients.

He said that the second ordinance, also drafted by the health education advisory board, could be adopted with some adjustments. That ordinance provides zoning relations for dispensaries and cultivation, but the city will have other categories to address as well, including extraction, manufacturing and transportation.

Both Head and Eden referenced lessons learned from Denver and the state of Colorado since legalizing marijuana for both medical and recreational use. The city plans to keep those experiences in mind as they develop rules for planning and zoning, manufacturing, extraction of oils (particularly for their use in edible products), transportation and sales.

“This is a very evolving process,” Eden said, describing an environment of continued research and development to improve efficiency and effectiveness in states where cannabis is legal.

The constitutional amendment will go into effect Dec. 6. The state is expected to promulgate regulatory statutes within 180 days. City staff will begin working on their own draft regulations, subject to the state rules once available, for council consideration. The administrative hold on the acceptance and processing of development applications, applications for building permits and business licenses, or other activities related to medical marijuana is intended to give the city time to “get their ducks in a row,” as Mayor Bill Baird said.

Councilmember Bob Johnson expressed frustration that the city was not appearing neutral in its consideration of next steps. He suggested that the city should remember that this law was approved by the voters and to wait for the state to provide their own regulatory guidance. Johnson said that while he agreed that time should be taken to research how the city should handle code changes and zoning regulations, he felt that the city already seems eager to implement more restrictive regulations than the amendment requires.

“I think we’re rushing awfully quick on this,” Johnson said.

Councilmember Trish Carlyle disagreed, suggesting that the administrative hold was the best way to address the current lack of guidance from the state. She said that if the state provides regulations on Dec. 6, the city can decide how they want to proceed and lift the hold as soon as they feel prepared to consider applications. And if the state’s regulations are delayed, the council can extend the hold up to one year.

The administrative hold was passed with only Johnson voting against. Mayor Pro Tem Beto Lopez was absent from the regular session. The planning commission was also present for the presentation and discussion but did not take any action of their own.