The Glasgow Courier - Serving Proudly As The Voice Of Valley County Since 1913

By A.J. Etherington
The Courier 

Med. Marijuana Ordinance Seems Unlikely

General Public Opinion is, ‘I Don’t Care’

 

January 16, 2019



Only nine members of the public alongside the County Attorney, Sheriff and the Commissioners administrative assistant attended a public hearing Jan. 14, to hear public opinion on establishing a medical marijuana dispensary ordinance in the county. Three of those in attendance represented the medical marijuana industry directly and only one person expressed opposition to allowing dispensaries in the area.

Participants were asked not to discuss the legality or morality of medicinal use of the drug, but rather to discuss favor or opposition to allowing dispensaries.

“Remember this hearing is not about the merits of medical marijuana,” stated Commissioner Paul Tweten in his opening remarks, before going on to explain that the hearing was to determine how the county should proceed on the issue.

County Attorney Dylan Jensen explained that State law does not allow the county to regulate medical marijuana for personal use and cannot prohibit dispensaries directly, but can regulate commercial spaces that operate as dispensaries. Jensen further explained that the current system is overseen by the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services who regulate, track and account for all the medical marijuana dispensaries, each plant and all the products produced by the industry.

Jensen further explained that the county needed to determine their path forward. “Baseline is there is no regulation from the county,” explained Jensen before discussing the options.

The county was trying to determine which course the public desired most out of the following options: The first is to allow the status quo and take up no ordinance regulating dispensaries. The second is to prohibit all dispensaries. The third is to ban all outright and grandfather in existing dispensaries. The third would allow for a number of dispensaries relative to the population of the county.

Generally, discussion at the meeting favored the allowance of dispensaries. Karl Hartman of Bloom Montana, a medical marijuana dispensary based in Helena, proposed his reasoning for allowing dispensaries, pointing out that delivery to the area does not serve the needs of patients using medicinal marijuana.

Hartman also opposed the grandfather option advocating instead for competition amongst providers that he asserted would better serve the patients. “I do believe the one shop option would not serve the patients,” commented Hartman before adding later, “I’m here to advocate against the one shop option.”

Rod Lambert, owner of CannaOrganics based in Fort Peck, reiterated earlier arguments he has made advocating for the allowance of medical marijuana dispensaries. He asserted that his newly established storefront just on the outskirts of Glasgow would better serve his elderly and sick patients who were sometimes unable to travel to Fort Peck to get their medical cannabis products.

Currently, delivery of medical marijuana inside the city limits is illegal by way of an ordinance barring such activity. The Glasgow City Council attempted to enact an ordinance to allow for deliveries by establishing a business license fee. The Lamberts, turned off of having to pay a fee, decided to open a store front option since no countywide ordinance for delivery exists today.

Of the remaining participants in attendance all were supportive of allowing medical marijuana dispensaries inside the county with the exception of one meeting participant. Linda Sibley stated directly that she was opposed to the idea of allowing it saying, “I do not think we need a dispensary in Valley County.”

Three separate meeting participants spoke in favor of allowing medical marijuana dispensaries. Rick Kendall asserted his position saying, “I’d like to see a storefront ordinance [in favor of dispensaries]... for the people who need this product.”

Suzette Kinzell expressed her support for allowing medical marijuana dispensaries stating she believed they would, “Make it, for the people who use it, much more convenient,” if there were to be a dispensary near Glasgow.

The Commissioners seemed more or less aware of the public sentiment. Newly sworn-in County Commissioner Mary Armstrong stated that she had heard, “More ambivalence or more positive towards it,” comments since announcing they were seeking feedback.

Tweten commented, “I’ve had a lot of ‘I don’t cares’,” from the public perspective. He did add that he has received a few “absolutely nots” from some residents.

As of press time, the County Commissioners were not going to go ahead with a 6:30 p.m. hearing on Jan. 28, in the courthouse. General consensus seemed to indicate that the current course of action would be to go forward without enacting an ordinance unless public sentiment changes in the future.

 

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