For the first time since the regulations and taxes on recreational marijuana were solidified this past legislative session, Kalispell officials brainstormed ways to address marijuana business zoning within city limits at their June 28 work session.
Since Gov. Greg Gianforte signed the “Montana Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act,” or House Bill 701, on May 18, the Department of Revenue will begin accepting license applications on or before Jan. 1 and Kalispell will likely see licensed providers intending to open businesses as early as Jan. 31 of next year.
Medical marijuana dispensaries, cultivation and processing are not currently permitted within Kalispell’s city limits. However, recreational marijuana will be permitted in 2022 unless residents petition and collect enough signatures to hold an election prohibiting marijuana businesses.
Officials discussed the different zoning approaches the city could take, which include similar requirements as liquor stores, pharmacies and casinos.
If dispensaries are classified under liquor store and pharmacy requirements, they would be permitted in all business and healthcare zones. Under casino requirements, they would be limited to certain zones and must be a certain distance away from places of worship, schools, parks, residential zones, highways and other casinos.
Other options include creating separate zoning requirements between dispensaries, cultivation and processing.
City Attorney Charles Harball suggested zoning dispensaries within the same parameters as a liquor store.
“The safe harbor would be to treat it as you would (for) liquor,” Harball said.
Some councilors feared if the zoning ordinance is too restrictive, it would concentrate marijuana businesses in certain areas instead of spreading them evenly throughout the city.
“I hear this from a lot of people that they do not like the green mile down in Evergreen,” Councilor Chad Graham said. “All the signage and stuff is packed into that one area … It constricts that use