The city council passed the moratorium on medical marijuana businesses last week for a period of 6-months and also allowed an exception that would “grandfather” in existing operations as long as that existing grow operation registered with the city within 10 business days of the passage of the moratorium and agreed to not expand their operation until more long-term rules could be put into place. The existing grow operations were asked to register at city hall as to their current location and the number of patients they currently have. A week has passed and our source at the city said that so far there has been no rush by the growers to comply with this provision. If none of the existing operations comply by the deadline next Friday just what does the city plan on doing to enforce this moratorium requirement? We are guessing that they will enforce this as they enforce every other ordinance they currently have on the books which is to ignore the obvious and do nothing, but then again, we are cynical by nature. The new ordinance carried no new set penalty for non-compliance but the city does have a penalty for standard misdemeanors which can impose a penalty of up to a $500 fine and 6-months in jail and several members of the council have indicated that this is adequate for this problem without making any new laws.
A group of approximately 30-40 people have repeatedly taken the council to task to do something about regulating this new industry that is rapidly growing in our area. Their spokesman, Rip Steckel, said they have collected over 200 signatures from people that have concerns with the industry and how it is regulated, or for a better term, is unregulated. We have also been informed that this group is meeting tonight with Peter Federspiel, an agent with the region 1 Tri-Agency Task Force, to hear his views on the subject. The local Tri-Agency Task Force deals with narcotics within an 11 county region. http://www.mnoa.org/?page=board
If any of our readers belong to this group and would like to send us a report after tonight’s meeting we would be happy to post your story at firstname.lastname@example.org
So now we have a moratorium and a 6-month window to work on a solution, what is the next step? Does the council just plan to wait and see if the State Legislature will actually do something about the vagueness of the oversight regulations and enforcement mechanisms? If that is the case the 6-month moratorium will not be enough as it is nearly 10 months until the legislative session can be completed. The council also suggested the option of looking in to a business license structure for the City of Havre. Currently business licenses are not required for businesses in either commercial or residential areas. There is an ordinance that prohibits businesses from locating in certain areas but again, it is rarely enforced. How would these licenses work? They surely don’t think they can single out a particular type of business such as a marijuana grow center or dispensary which would mean that all Havre businesses would have to have a license and oversight if this was to be fair.
Interestingly I just got back from Great Falls where I took my mother to spend a few days visiting relatives over Mother’s day and I learned that Great Falls requires licensing of businesses. For businesses located in residential areas they require what is called a Home Occupation Certificate from the city. Anyone wanting to have a home office or conduct any kind of home business must first get permission from neighboring residents. They must determine how their business will affect the neighborhood such as traffic, noise, or how the business may or may not visually change the neighborhood. The Great Falls ordinances state that not more than one-third of the total square footage of the home can be used for the business and that if the business has employees they can’t be at the home for over 40 hours per week and they can’t store materials, inventory, or other debris outside the home. With some thought and intelligent debate I would think Havre could come up with something that would be acceptable to everyone using a business license structure.