Medical marijuana headed to Platte County

Applications are now open for medical marijuana operations in Missouri and Platte County has its fair share of interested parties, according to a list of pre-applicants released earlier this summer.

More than 600 potential applicants have pre-filed with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and of these, the state plans to license 60 cultivation facilities, 192 dispensaries, 86 medical marijuana-infused manufacturing facilities and 10 testing laboratory facilities state-wide. State approval of dispensary applications is expected in January 2020.

Pre-applications for cultivation operations, dispensaries and manufacturing facilities were filed across Platte County, with addresses ranging from Dearborn to Parkville. The most applications are for dispensaries, with several duplicate pre-applications filed. Dispensaries are proposed in the Weston, Dearborn, Platte City, Parkville and Kansas City North areas. Cultivation operations are proposed in the Dearborn, Weston and Parkville areas. Manufacturing facilities are proposed in Dearborn, Weston and Kansas City North.

Final applications will be scored by a third party using standard criteria and with identities stripped.

“Early on as we began our research, our team got together to discuss the various ways we could award licenses, and we all agreed that a blind scoring system using a third-party vendor would be the fairest way to grant licenses to applicants,” said Lyndall Fraker, director of the Section for Medical Marijuana Regulation. “Since applicants will be scored solely on the content of their facility applications, we also believe that this will help set the industry up for a successful launch for Missouri patients.”

Criminal background checks will also be completed by the Missouri State Highway Patrol on applicants and all employees of proposed operations.

The department began processing patient and caregiver applications in June and has approved more than 5,000 applications.

While the bulk of the new medical marijuana law — which was approved by voters last fall — is overseen by the state, municipalities can regulate which areas of the city are best suited to host dispensaries and facilities. They may also set the hours of operation for dispensaries.

Last month, the Kansas City Council passed an ordinance setting regulations for operating medical marijuana facilities within the city limits. The ordinance includes distance requirements for separation from schools, day cares and churches, as well as hours of operations.

In Kansas City, all medical marijuana production facilities must be located at least 750 feet away from schools and at least 300 feet away from day-care facilities and churches. Dispensaries must be located at least 300 feet away from schools, day-care facilities and churches. Hours of operation for marijuana dispensary facilities must be between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Medical marijuana cultivation, manufacturing and distribution facilities must follow the city’s existing zoning codes.

The City of Riverside also recently tackled medical marijuana at its board of aldermen meeting, with city staff realizing that if it used the 1,000 feet setback suggested in state law that no marijuana-related businesses could operate in Riverside. Cities are not permitted to outright prohibit or create unrealistic standards that would de facto forbid operations, so staff suggested 300 feet, which is the current setback for businesses selling alcohol. Aldermen eventually approved the 300 feet setback and approved hours of operation from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays.

The City of Platte City’s board of aldermen has voted to limit dispensaries to the central and general business districts and approved the same 300 feet buffer as Riverside to separate facilities from schools, churches and daycare centers. Possible hours of operation are similar as well, with approved hours between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Some jurisdictions are still mulling over how to handle this drastic change in Missouri law.

In Parkville, mayor Nan Johnston suggested the city organize a public discussion on how to handle medical marijuana in the city. Director of community development Stephen Lachky said a work session with the city’s planning and zoning commission would be held Monday, Aug. 12 with possible public hearings held in September and October.

The Weston planning and zoning commission are also still working on their recommendations for changes to Weston’s municipal code. At the July meeting of the board of aldermen, city attorney Jeremy Webb spoke about the ramifications of the legalization on personnel policies, with the city currently leaning toward complete prohibition of use of medical marijuana by city employees.

During discussions in several cities, aldermen and city staff have wondered if they should set the limits with consideration to the possible future legalization of recreational marijuana in Missouri. The general consensus was that any such legalization could be years off, and would still be in violation of federal law. Cities will adjust ordinances to meet the current criteria and make further changes in the future, if and when they are needed.