The Havre City Council Monday put a six-month ban on new medical marijuana growing operations in the city, and on expansion of existing operations. The ordinance grandfathers in existing operations to continue to operate at their current size. The emergency interim zoning ordinance also requires the owners of all existing grow operations, defined by state law as caregivers, to certify with the city the number of marijuana plants in their possession and the number of patients registered with the caregiver. Montana voters, in a 62-percent margin, approved allowing people to grow and use marijuana to relieve chronic pain and nausea. The number of people applying — and being approved — as patients or caregivers has exploded in the last year. Local lawmakers throughout the state have struggled with the expansion of the business this year, with many instituting moratoriums or using zoning ordinances to try to regulate it. Most local officials say the state law passed in 2004 is far too vague and gives no direction on how to regulate the growth, sale and use of medical marijuana. Before the discussion began in a public hearing before the full council meeting, Mayor Tim Solomon asked for a show of hands to see who supported the moratorium and who opposed it. Of the people in the audience at the time — more came in as the public hearing progressed — 27 were in support and three opposed it. Some in the audience opposed the ordinance because it did not go far enough. Trygve “Spike” Magelssen told the council that grandfathering in existing operations was in violation of federal law, which considers marijuana illegal. “Basically, you are complicit in Allowing some people to have something that’s federally illegal by passing this ordinance,” he said. President Barack Obama has directed the U.S. Department of Justice not to prosecute marijuana cases where the federal law conflicts with state marijuana laws. Montana is one of 14 states that has legalized the herb for medical use. The council voted 7-1 to pass the moratorium. Council member Gerry Veis, alderman for Ward 1, was the sole vote against it. Council member Bob Kaftan, Ward 3, said people want to know what the ordinance would do. “People are looking for assurance the city will do everything it can to restrict and limit its use,” Kaftan said. Solomon said the ordinance will put a temporary stop to the expansion of the grow operations in Havre, and allow time to study the issue and determine the best way to regulate it. Havre resident Rip Steckel presented Solomon and the council a petition signed by 250 residents asking the city to do what it can to alleviate their concerns about the negative aspects of marijuana use. Some of the concerns Steckel listed were increased neighborhood crimes, including home invasions and robberies and assaults; illegal sale of the marijuana produced; increased cost for law enforcement; negative impacts on Havre’s image; impaired drivers endangering children in the community; possible problems in grow operations such as faulty wiring; a desire to restrict locations to be away from schools, parks, homes and day care facilities;and a concern that current caregivers will be grandfathered in without regard to those concerns. Several audience members commented that people acting as caregivers were illegal sellers of marijuana before the law was enacted, and now are doing the same as they did before under the auspices of the 2004 initiative. Frank Trocki, chancellor of Montana State University- Northern, said that without any comment for or against the Montana law, he cannot allow the use of marijuana on the university campus. As Northern — and its students — are recipients of federal money, he cannot allow its use in violation of federal law, Trocki said.
Council bans new medical marijuana operations
Published: Tuesday, May 4th, 2010
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