July 13, 2019

Mallory Herrmann

Lee’s Summit has taken its first legislative steps toward preparing for the legalization of medical cannabis. Since Missouri voters passed a constitutional amendment allowing for the use last November, the city has been working to figure out how the change will affect everything from zoning to criminal codes and beyond. City staff expect to bring at least two more phases of major ordinance amendments to the council in preparation for medical cannabis within city limits; this week they presented the first.

These first changes are to the unified development ordinance (UDO) and primarily establish allowable operating hours for dispensaries and create a buffer between any medical cannabis facilities and sensitive uses (including schools, daycares and churches). The facilities, including cultivation, extraction, transportation and dispensary facilities, can be no closer than 1,000 feet from any sensitive use, as defined by the state.

But that buffer isn’t quite as simple as it sounds. The state requires a walking path method to measure those 1,000 feet, meaning that it should be measured “along the shortest path between the demarcation points that can lawfully be traveled by foot.” If it is a distance of 1,000 feet to leave a church, walk down the sidewalk, cross at the first legal crosswalk, and back down the other side of the street to a dispensary, that is within the parameters of the state’s requirements.

There are also specific regulations for the “demarcation points” within the state regulations. For instance, when measuring between freestanding buildings, the distance should be measured from the external wall of the medical cannabis facility and the property line of the daycare. But if one or either of those is located in a multi-tenant building (such as a strip mall), the measurement should be taken from the door.

The council also agreed to a slight extension of operating hours for dispensaries to be open to the public. Lee’s Summit Cares had proposed limiting hours so that dispensaries can only be open 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, and 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Sunday. Lee’s Summit Cares based these hours on a self-compiled list of current operating hours for existing pharmacies in Lee’s Summit, which are not subject to any limitations of hours open to the public.

Councilmember Fred DeMoro proposed extending the operating hours on Saturday to be the same as the weekday hours before Councilmember Rob Binney suggested extending the weekday hours by one hour instead. An amendment to change the hours to 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Monday through Friday (while keeping the original weekend hours) passed with only Councilmember Diane Forte voting against.

While Binney suggested the extension of weekday hours for dispensaries, he also voiced concerns that cannabis is still illegal federally and that the city could potentially be liable in the future. He also suggested that such dispensaries could become the “wild, wild West” with cash on hand that cannot be banked because of federal restrictions.

But David Bushek, chief counsel of economic development and planning, said that the city would be keeping an eye on how the legal parameters of the situation so the city can adjust accordingly as it evolves.

“We’ve got some different philosophies, deep core philosophies, that are going to come out in this,” said Mayor Bill Baird. “But given the situation I think we’re all getting towards some type of consensus.”

Before their vote, the council heard from seven residents who shared thoughts both in support of and against stricter regulations on the city’s part. Some noted that the industry is already set to be heavily regulated by the state, with numerous requirements regarding security and operations. Because cannabis has not been legalized for recreational use, any patients seeking cannabis will need a state-issued card and photo identification to enter a dispensary.

Others said that standard pharmacy hours were more than fair and that restricted hours would help curb access.

The council approved the changes, with only Binney voting against. Councilmembers Phyllis Edson and Craig Faith were absent from the July 9 meeting.