City approves first reading of cannabis ordinance

Moorhead City Council

Nancy Edmonds Hanson

Rules for Minnesota’s licensure of cannabis-related businesses aren’t expected to be ready to go until sometime in 2025, but the Moorhead City Council on Monday took the first step to bring local laws into alignment with the emerging state regulations.
The council voted unanimously to approve the first reading of a new ordinance that will adjusts local laws according to the rules set forth in the Legislature’s legalization of recreational marijuana at the end of its 2023 session. Gov. Tim Walz signed the law at the end of May; its provisions went into effect last summer.
A number of state laws were immediately struck down, including the ban on cultivation of marijuana and sale of drug paraphernalia. Adult possession was also legalized, with individuals permitted to up to 2 ounces of flower in public, up to 2 pounds in their private residences, and up to 8 grams adult-use concentrate. But rules for commercial businesses are still being formulated. The new State Office of Cannabis Management is working out a legal framework under which businesses, now including current hemp THC/CBD sellers and medical marijuana dispensaries, will be licensed and operate.
Moorhead planning director Robin Huston explained to the council that under the new law, cities cannot prohibit cannabis-related sales or services. They may, however, ban them within 1,000 feet of a school, or within 500 feet of a daycare, residential treatment facility or attractions in public park that are used by minors, such as playgrounds and athletic fields. They cannot limit sales to fewer than one shop per 12,500 residents; that number may be exceeded, however.
Huston is part of a cannabis working group put together by city manager Dan Mahli to study the city’s options for handling recreational marijuana-related businesses and sales. It includes representatives of the police, the city attorney’s office, the city prosecutor and the community development department, along with the city clerk. Along with adjusting zoning laws, the group is weighing other issues, including compliance with the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act and issues surrounding smoking in parks, cannabis and lower-potency hemp business registrations and cannabis-related special events permits.
Under the proposed zoning rules endorsed Monday night, personal or home uses will be permitted across all zoning classifications. Included are cultivation of up to eight plants, extraction and sale of hemp or cannabis flower and related products.
State-licensed businesses that manufacture lower-potency hemp concentrate, as well as cannabis-related commercial cultivation, product manufacturing, testing, transportation and wholesale distribution, will be permitted only in areas zones for industrial operations.
Licensing, Huston told the council, will be handled at the state level. She said the city may require licensed individuals and businesses to simply register. “It would be a very simple process,” she said. “The state will verify zoning, and then we’ll add them to a registry so we know who is doing what in the community.” She said compliance checks such as those surrounding alcohol and tobacco sales are likely.

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