The Columbia City Council discussed regulations Monday for the licensing of medical marijuana facilities, with a tentative date to begin accepting applications scheduled for Oct. 1.

The proposed regulations were presented at the precouncil meeting by City Counselor Nancy Thompson and Assistant City Counselor Jose Caldera.

Thompson noted during the session that the council needed to establish city regulations soon so residents know what will be required of them at the local level.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services began accepting license applications Saturday from business owners competing for a role in the medical marijuana market, which the Missouri Cannabis Industry Association estimates will mature to bring in $480 million annually across the industry.

Prior to Saturday, business owners were able to file preapplication forms and pay their application fees in advance. As of July 30, 592 preapplication forms had been filed statewide, according to DHSS’ website.

Of the 592 preapplication forms filed, at least 22 forms were filed by business owners seeking to open dispensaries in Columbia. Six preapplication forms were filed for cultivation facilities in Columbia and three preapplication forms were filed for manufacturing facilities.

Under the proposed licensing regulations, the city would accept applications during a two-week period beginning Oct. 1, which would give officials the time they need to process the applications, according to Thompson.

A maximum of seven city licenses would be issued for medical marijuana dispensaries in 2020, with applicants chosen based on a 50-point scoring system.

Businesses would receive a higher score if:

  • The business is a minority-owned enterprise, women-owned enterprise, service-disabled-veteran-owned enterprise or veteran-owned small business.
  • The business is located at least 1½ miles from City Hall.
  • The business is locally owned.
  • The application includes a cultural competency plan.

In the case of a tie, the business with the higher score on its state application would be selected. If the state scores are also the same, a random lottery would determine the winning business.

Caldera said the reason for the 1½ mile distance requirement was to avoid businesses from “clustering” in specific areas. He said the city wanted the businesses to be dispersed throughout the community, with Daniel Boone City Building, located at 701 E. Broadway, serving as an anchor point.

Betsy Peters, council member for Ward 6, noted the proposed regulations could just push businesses to cluster in areas two miles away from city hall.

More dispensary licenses could become available based on city population growth. The formula proposed in the regulations would allow one dispensary license to be issued for every 20,000 residents in the city.

The proposed regulations would not cap the number of licenses available for medical marijuana cultivation, manufacturing or testing facilities.

Notably absent from the proposed regulations were licensing requirements for businesses that transport medical marijuana.

Caldera told the council that the regulations excluded transportation licensing because it was unclear how the state would license transportation companies. Caldera said the city would wait until there is more clarity at the state level before creating local regulations.

The regulations propose a nonrefundable $2,000 fee to obtain a license and a $500-per-year fee for renewal.

An applicant for a local license would need to be of “good moral character” and a resident of Missouri for at least a year prior to applying for the license.

The application would include questions about the applicant’s criminal history, residency and past employment. Along with the application, the applicant would need to file with the city an approved security plan, operation and management plan and emergency response plan for their facility.

Under the proposed regulations, facilities must have security cameras, a safe, an alarm system and exterior lighting, as well as any additional requirements deemed necessary by the Columbia Police Department.

Upon the filing of the application, the city’s business services administrator would be responsible for conducting an investigation into the applicant’s assertions and accompanying documents, as well as the applicant’s character and the location and condition of the premises to be licensed.

If an application is denied, the applicant would be able to appeal the decision to a marijuana facility license review board, which would be composed of the city’s director of finance, director of public health and a council-appointed citizen member.

Owners would not be able to sell, transfer or reassign the licenses. The location of a licensed establishment could not be moved without the express approval of the city’s business service administrator.

In June, the council approved changes to the city’s zoning ordinances to accommodate new medical marijuana facilities. The changes included a 500-foot buffer between the businesses and churches, day care centers and schools.

Supervising editor is Olivia Garrett.

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