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Council To Look At Moratorium On Medical Marijuana Businesses

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Nug of the Month: Aug 2008
The City Council will again consider a temporary moratorium on new medical marijuana businesses on May 10.

After watching the city issue 70 business licenses for medical marijuana providers and hearing increased chatter from the public on the controversial topic, council members voted 10-0 Monday night to take up a six-month emergency ordinance that could prevent new marijuana shops from opening in Billings.

The ordinance hasn't been hashed out yet, so it could ban new marijuana businesses throughout the city or push them into certain parts of the city.

If the council approves a moratorium, marijuana businesses already operating wouldn't be affected.

The council wasn't planning to discuss the issue Monday night, but about three dozen people showed up to talk to the council at the end of the meeting about a planned medical marijuana business at 2918 Grand Ave., a few blocks from Will James Middle School.

More than two dozen people came to the meeting opposed to the business, Magic City Meds, which is owned by Marc Copps of Billings. Those who spoke against the location said it was too close to the middle school and a danger to impressionable teenagers who would walk by the business going to and from school.

Will James principal Lance Orner said the business was right in front of the only crosswalk on Grand Avenue for blocks in any direction, so kids would be within feet of the medical marijuana business a couple of times each day.

"They come right face to face with that facility that's going to open," he said. "It's not a matter of if something will happen. It's when something will happen."

But Copps told the council that he would never sell marijuana to kids or even let them into his store. He even said he'd work with parents to find another location that would reduce tensions.

"I'm not a pothead junkie. I'm a business owner, a church-goer," Copps said.

"I want to see people helped by this. There will be no minors allowed there. Children will not be allowed on the premises."

Copps said he had a business license and had already signed a one-year lease for the space, so it seemed possible that he wouldn't be affected by any moratorium passed by the council.

Police Chief Rich St. John said there was no state law against operating a legal marijuana business within 1,000 feet of a school. In fact, a new medical marijuana business opened recently on Grand Avenue less than a block from Billings Senior High .

"As long as everything is legitimate, it's legal under Montana law," St. John said.

The council will consider the moratorium on May 10 along with a report from the council's ad hoc committee on medical marijuana, which will meet at noon on Thursday in City Hall.

The council moved swiftly through its regular agenda, approving a downtown land sale to Stockman Bank, a funding plan for the community development program and construction of a pedestrian tunnel under Main Street.

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Source: The Billings Gazette
Contact: The Billings Gazette
Copyright: 2010 The Billings Gazette
Website: Council to look at moratorium on medical marijuana businesses