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Facilities to grow and sell medical marijuana are coming to Jefferson County, members of the County Council were told at their May 6 work session.

It’s up to council members to make sure that they have local guidelines in place before the state starts issuing permits, County Services Director Eric Larson said.

Larson reminded the council that voters statewide overwhelmingly approved Constitutional Amendment No. 2 in November 2018 to authorize the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Since then, the state Department of Health and Senior Services has been developing regulations concerning the cultivation and sale of cannabis.

“Some of you may agree with this, and some may not, but that’s not what we’re here to decide,” Larson said. “This is coming. What we need to do now is figure out where these places need to be.”

Larson said he developed a proposed ordinance that sets down zoning regulations for facilities dealing with medical marijuana production and sales.

“The state is handling the licensing and regulations,” Larson said. “Our only decisions are to draw up regulations on where they should go and such.”

He said the proposed ordinance was drawn from recommendations by the state and by looking at areas that have had experience with medical marijuana facilities, such as cities in California.

Under the proposal, all such facilities would be considered as conditional uses.

That means a public hearing on the conditional-use permit will be held before the Jefferson County Planning Commission and that the County Council must approve it.

Under a conditional-use permit, the county can add requirements specific to the individual application, such as regulating business hours.

Under the state law, there will be four types of businesses devoted to the sale and production of medical marijuana: dispensaries, cultivation sites, testing facilities and manufacturing sites for medical-infused products.

The last category covers firms that make products that allow users to consume marijuana by means other than smoking, such as ointments and edible products.

In each case, the proposed ordinance also limits facilities from being located closer than 1,000 feet from a school, church, day care center, park or similar public facility – or from each other.

“I would think we wouldn’t, say, want dispensaries on every street corner,” Larson said. “It allows us to make sure that these facilities are in the right neighborhoods, and we can add more conditions if need be.”

As concerns zoning, dispensaries would be considered a commercial use, cultivation sites would be considered as an agricultural use and the other two facilities would fall under planned industrial zoning regulations.

Under the proposal, strict standards would be in place, particularly for dispensaries and cultivation farms.

Signage would not allow the word “marijuana” to be used and no graphic depictions of the plant would be permitted. The display of any product that could be seen through windows or doors also would be prohibited.

Storage areas would be required to be secured, and consumption of marijuana on-site would be banned and outdoor seating would not be allowed.

Additionally, dispensaries would not be allowed to offer deliveries or drive-throughs, and the dispensaries could only operate between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. daily, unless the hours were adjusted in the conditional-use permit process. Dispensaries also would be required to operate in a permanent building.

“These things are common in this type of legislation,” Larson said.

Larson said he would like to see the Planning Commission consider an ordinance in early June, so that it could pass a recommendation to the County Council for its June 24 meeting.

He said he hopes that the county could have its ordinance in place by Aug. 3, when the state will begin accepting applications for permits from potential operators. Permits could be issued within 150 days of application.

“Without (local) legislation, the county would have no control of these types of businesses,” Larson said. “Now is the time to act, rather than react.”

Since Jan. 5, the state has allowed applicants to put down a non-refundable application fee.

Doctors and other medical offices will receive information on how patients can apply for a medical marijuana ID card – which will be necessary to purchase products – in early June.

The state will begin accepting applications on July 4, according to the Department of Health and Senior Services website.