By Tim Farley
Yukon city officials are taking steps to restrict the locations of medical marijuana dispensaries and retail outlets with a draft ordinance presented Tuesday by City Attorney Gary Miller.
The proposal was distributed during a work session prior to the city council meeting.
The measure would prevent medical marijuana outlets from setting up anywhere in Yukon except for specific areas south of Interstate 40. Retail marijuana permits would not be granted to any applicant whose proposed location is within 1,000 feet of any school, library, museum, public playground, child care center, church, park, neighborhood or another medical marijuana establishment.
Miller acknowledged the proposal is “very restrictive” and council members during the attorney’s presentation said they do not want medical marijuana retail outlets in Yukon.
Ward 2 Councilwoman Shelly Selby and Ward 1 Councilman Rick Cacini endorsed the proposal.
“We have to be prepared because it is coming,” Selby said. “I like the guidelines that are in place. It’s a wonderful proposal. It’s not too restrictive. It’s line with bars and liquor stores.”
City ordinances do not address restrictions on liquor stores and bars. However, a state law states bars that sell low-point beer cannot be within 300 feet of a school or church.
Cacini stands behind the city attorney’s proposal.
“I think it’s a great idea. He did a great job. I fully agree with his analysis and recommendations to the city.”
Cacini also said he supports medical marijuana but believes the location of medical marijuana outlets should be in Yukon’s major commercial corridor along Garth Brooks Boulevard and south of I-40.
“I totally agree with that. It’ll be near the hospital. That way, if anyone gets hurt they can go straight to the hospital.”
Yukon’s proposal would require $600 for a commercial permit and $240 for an individual permit.
At one point during the work session, City Manager Jim Crosby acknowledged that city officials considered making the individual permit $600 to discourage people from growing the plant in their homes.
Miller told the council the entire proposal could be changed at their discretion. So far, about six applications have been filed at city hall for medical marijuana permits. Miller also said he wouldn’t be surprised if the city is sued once the ordinance is enacted because of its geographic limitations.
Jimmy Shannon, owner of Ambury Health, a CBD oil dispensary in Norman, was critical of the proposal.
“People are going to be getting licenses on August 25 and the Oklahoma State Department of Health has to grant them in two weeks. It’s $2,500 for a license and the rules are pretty flexible. A lot of people are going to be getting licenses and they’re going to want to open them in Yukon,” he said. “If they (the city) wants to control the number of dispensaries, that’s fine but to basically keep them from operating in 90 percent of the town is not acceptable,” Shannon said.
He compared it to the reaction lawmakers had after State Questions 780 and 781 passed which made drug possession crimes a misdemeanor instead of a felony. Lawmakers reacted to place stipulations on the law that all but reversed the criminal justice reform measures.
“This is 780 and 781 all over again. I think we look at what’s been done in other states and we take the good, learn from the bad and start from the ground up,” he said.
However, permits are not being issued until the state Department of Health reconciles the rules for implementing medical marijuana and at least two lawsuits are settled over the department’s previous rulings.
Earlier this week, the health department’s Interim Commissioner Tom Bates urged a special legislative session to address the potentially dangerous “buyer beware environment” in the medical cannabis marketplace. A lack of rules or standard educational materials for patients could mean little quality control for products, which could represent a hazard, Bates said.
“The only way to ensure there isn’t a gap of time where these (issues) could get away from us is to have a special session,” he said.
The public health gaps are exacerbated by the significant scale of the state’s new medical cannabis program. According to Bates, the health department expects 80,000 applications for commercial or individual use of the product.
Bud Scott, executive director of New Health Solutions Oklahoma, said lawmakers need to address the gaps in medical marijuana rules during a special session. New Health Solutions represents the state’s medical cannabis businesses and investors.
Mindy Ragan Wood contributed to this report.