The city is updating its medical marijuana ordinance.

The Moore City Council unanimously approved the update during Monday's meeting.

The main change to the ordinance involved adding a legal non-conforming clause for medical marijuana dispensaries and growing facilities that are currently operating outside of the zoning regulations, according to the ordinances passed in October 2018.

The clause allows current medical marijuana entities not in compliance with the zoning regulations to continue to operate as long as they have filed for a certificate of occupancy and are in possession of a state-issued medical marijuana license.

The clause also allows medical marijuana entities in non-compliant zoning locations that file for a certificate of occupancy by Jan. 1, 2020 to operate legally as long as the entity provides a state-issued medical marijuana commercial license by June 1, 2020. Once the clause expires in January, all new medical marijuana entities must be in compliance with the zoning restrictions in the ordinance.

The legal non-conforming clause was added to the medical marijuana ordinance due to confusion stemming from the ordinance passed in October of 2018, which included zoning regulations, restrictions and fee schedules for medical marijuana entities. The ordinance was suspended in November 2018 after a Tulsa County District Court ruled cities could not enact a type of ordinance that regulates medical marijuana businesses.

"Since we were not enforcing our ordinance, growers and dispensaries were allowed to set up shop anywhere within the city. There were no zoning restrictions," Brian Miller, Moore assistant city attorney, said. "We were not allowed to (tell entities) that they were not zoned correctly to have a grow operation. So a lot of these businesses opened up grow operations that were in conflict with our zoning restrictions, but we weren't enforcing our ordinance."

Last summer, the Oklahoma State legislature passed House Bill 2612, referred to as the "Unity Bill," which gives city municipalities the right to issue permits and licenses to all potential medical marijuana entities in compliance with their ordinance. Once it went into effect in late August, Moore began to enforce the ordinance they suspended last year.

However, this meant there were medical marijuana businesses and growing operations that were operating in locations that were not zoned correctly, which threatened to force the existing dispensaries out of business or to find a new location in compliance with the ordinance.

"The problem I had to solve was, 'how are we able to accommodate the medical marijuana business owners that are already in business?' Because they've invested money into their business and it wouldn't be right to tell them they're not zoned correctly and they have to move out," Miller said.

"Then there were some people that told me they had gone to a landlord and told them they wanted to put in a growing operation at their location, but the landlord is hesitant to rent to them because the landlord doesn't know if the city is going to allow them to operate there. So we wanted to accommodate the business owners, potential growers and the city council, and I think we accomplished that."

One such Moore business affected by the ordinance confusion was Mary Jane Dispensary, 2990 SE 19th St. CEO Darrell Carnes said the business was interested in using the space next to the business as a growing operation primarily for cloning marijuana plants. When he went to file a certificate of occupancy, he was told the space was not zoned in compliance with the ordinance.

Carnes said it wasn't a viable option to look for a location elsewhere because the ordinance severely limited the locations that were compliant with the ordinance.

"For us it wasn't really an option to look for another place because of how small our team is," Carnes said. "We needed a facility that's close to our dispensary. But this legal non-conforming clause paves the way for small businesses already existing a pathway forward, and it paves the way for a clone production facility within a commercial setting."

Carnes said he's relieved that the ordinance was updated to include the clause, and hopes other cities look to Moore as they develop their own ordinances.

"It feels good to have a city that was willing to listen to us as business owners, and they were willing to come to the table and talk with us. I hope Moore is used as an example for other cities and the fact that it's okay to not always know the right ways to handle this and be willing to work with people in the community."

Jesse Crittenden

366-3540

jcrittenden@normantranscript.com

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