By Conrad Dudderar
Yukon’s medical marijuana ordinance became less restrictive recently when the city council unanimously approved allowing dispensaries to be open Sundays and an hour later Monday through Saturday.
Council members voted 5-0 at their June 27th meeting to amend chapter 214 of Yukon city ordinance #1365 “changing hours for retail establishments to 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.”
Approval of an emergency clause made the change effective immediately.
Five years ago, the City of Yukon ordinance established hours of operation to between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Until last Tuesday night’s city council action, medical marijuana businesses could not legally be open on Sundays.
This spring, the City of Yukon started actively enforcing this ordinance by issuing citations to dispensaries opening outside those hours – prompting the call to make changes.
Mayor Shelli Selby referred to emails she received from people about Yukon dispensaries’ “non-compliance” of the city ordinance.
Ward 1 City Council Member Rodney Zimmerman shared his support for the ordinance update, calling the requested change in hours “very reasonable.” Ward 3 Council Member Donna Yanda also voiced her “full support.”
This week’s city council approval earned rousing applause from dispensary owners and employees, along with other medical marijuana supporters attending the meeting inside the Centennial Building, 12 S 5th.
Before the council vote, several people spoke in favor of lifting the Sunday restriction and extending hours of operation.
Yukon’s Jaden Fortenberry, an Elevate Dispensary employee in Bethany, told council members that “legal medical patients” should “get the access they immediately deserve.”
“Our community needs access to this plant whenever they feel the pain,” he said, referring to cannabis as a “healthier, natural alternative” medicine.
Fortenberry shared Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority data indicating a decline in income from medical marijuana sales since Yukon began enforcing the ordinance in March.
“We are literally making less tax money right now than we were making during peak pandemic,” he said. “It’s pretty clear that this is impacting our tax revenue, which in turn, affects what we are able to do as a city.”
Fortenberry referred to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), elderly suffering from severe pain and “hard-working” community members who work late hours and do not have access to medical marijuana at the times they need.
Yukon patients had been traveling to Elevate’s Bethany dispensary when they couldn’t purchase cannabis products in Yukon on Sundays or after 9 p.m. on other days.
Fortenberry suggested the Yukon City Council eventually consider allowing dispensaries to be open until midnight.
“This is a medicine that needs to be accessed,” he said. “What we’re clearly failing to realize is that this medicine is not something you get to dictate when and where patients are allowed to purchase.
“They don’t get to pick when they’re sleepless. Our veterans don’t get to pick when they’re having their flashbacks. My grandpa doesn’t get to pick when his knees give out. Or my stepfather doesn’t get to pick when he can’t get out of bed.”
Fortenberry pointed out those patients he sees daily don’t make much money thus are unable to purchase cannabis medicine in “bulk” all at once.
“It’s more single, smaller purchases – whatever they can get their hands on in order to cure their pain,” he said.
Yukon’s James Amway, who manages the Elevate Dispensary in Bethany, said Yukon is known as a compassionate, progressive town that embraces the benefits of legal cannabis.
Restricting medical marijuana sales to certain hours hinders “those in need of their therapeutic properties,” Amway told council members.
“We must realize the profound impact medical marijuana has on the lives of countless individuals within our community,” he said. “We have heard stories of pain and suffering, the battles against chronic illness and debilitating conditions from many medical marijuana users.”
Amway referred to legal cannabis as a “beacon of hope” offering relief to patients after traditional treatments have “fallen short”.
He encouraged city leaders to update Yukon’s marijuana ordinance so as not to limit access for people in need to medicine that could “alleviate their suffering”.
Amway referred to economic benefits of increasing availability by extending hours of operations for Yukon’s dispensaries.
“It is our duty to nurture and grow our local economy by enabling the sales of medical marijuana throughout the day,” he said. “We foster an environment that encourages entrepreneurship, job creation and revenue generation.
“These funds, in turn, can be reinvested into our community supporting vital infrastructure, education and public services that benefit each and every one of us.”
Jacques Chansavang, owner of Yukon’s Elevate Dispensary, said some patients can only make it to his store on Sundays. He also encouraged Yukon city officials to consider allow dispensaries to be open past 10 p.m. daily.
“We never wanted to be open 24 hours,” Chansavang said. “There isn’t that great of a need to open past 2 a.m.”
Several other changes to Yukon’s city ordinance related to medical marijuana were approved at the June 27th city council meeting.
Highlights were to delete entire sections regulating marijuana-growing facilities for personnel use and permit inspections for such facilities.
This was done in accordance with a court ruling and recent legislation.
A new section was added that prohibits the smoking and use of marijuana in all City of Yukon vehicles, city buildings, city parks, and other city facilities.
Since 2018, Yukon has restricted where retail marijuana establishments may be located.
They cannot be within:
- 300 feet of any library, museum, public playground, childcare center, place of worship or religious assembly, public park, pool, recreation facility, juvenile or adult halfway house, correctional facility, substance abuse rehabilitation/treatment center, or another medical marijuana or retail marijuana establishment.
- 1,000 feet of any private or public school, preschool, elementary school, secondary school, high school, vocational or trade school, college or university.
The City of Yukon has three separate ordinances on the books regulating retail marijuana establishments adopted between August 2018 and February 2019.
In June 2018, Oklahoma voters approved State Question 788 by a 56.7% majority legalizing the licensed cultivation, use and possession of marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Oklahoma voters rejected recreational marijuana legalization in a statewide election this March when S.Q. 820 failed by a 61.7% majority.