Aberdeen City Council considers medical marijuana ordinances

Neither the Aberdeen Planning Commission nor the Brown County Planning and Zoning Commission made changes to proposed ordinances that would govern medical marijuana locally.

Both groups recommended that the city and county respectively approve the ordinances that have been crafted in recent months.

The Aberdeen City Council and Brown County Commission will next set two public hearings each before giving final approval to the ordinances.

In Aberdeen, there will be dedicated districts that will allow for dispensaries, cultivating facilities, manufacturing facilities and test facilities. They will be allowed in the industrial park and unrestricted industrial park zones, under the proposed ordinances. Dispensaries would also be allowed in highway commercial and central business districts.

Neither group was anxious to make changes to the proposals given that recreational marijuana use could soon be legal in South Dakota.

More: Aberdeen City Council proposes limit of 6 medical marijuana dispensaries

Voters in November approved medical and recreational marijuana. However, the state has challenged the use of recreational marijuana, and the South Dakota Supreme Court will issue a ruling, likely in the not-distant future.

If recreational marijuana is determined to be legal, “I think all the rules go out the door and we start over. I mean, we’ll just have to recreate,” Brown County Commissioner Rachel Kipply said at the county planning and zoning meeting.

She said it’s just a matter of time before that happens, regardless of the Supreme Court decision.

At the Aberdeen Planning Commission meeting, the sentiment was the same. 

“If recreation marijuana is either ruled lawful through the current matter before the South Dakota Supreme Court or if it’s subsequently enacted and legalized by the Legislature at some other point, this thing we’re looking at here is probably going to go away altogether,” City Attorney Ron Wager said at the city meeting.

Both meetings included discussion about measuring the distances of medical marijuana facilities from other property.

More: Aberdeen City Council reviews medical cannabis ordinance that defines where dispensaries could be located

In the proposed ordinances for Aberdeen, cannabis dispensaries cannot be any less than 1,000 feet from a public or private school. And they cannot be less than 150 feet from a church, synagogue, mosque, temple or building that is primarily used for religious worship. That also includes public libraries, public parks and a licensed or registered day care existing before a dispensary applies for a license.

Those distances will be measured from the lot lines of those properties, not the buildings themselves.

On the county side, a special meeting will be scheduled to set out the guidelines that will include the number of dispensaries, fees, distance from schools and churches and hours of operation.

If regulations aren’t in place by the end of October, the county will not be able to prohibit cultivation, manufacturing and testing facilities. 

Outside of Aberdeen, Brown County has a population of roughly 10,000 people. Aberdeen’s proposed ordinance sets a maximum of one dispensary per 5,000 people.  

“I think the simpler thing is just to say we’re just going to start with one or we’re just going to start with two, something small,” Kippley said of county medical marijuana businesses. “I think the thing is we don’t need a lot, and you can always expand.”

The county planning and zoning board also discussed the cost of licensing, and members expressed concerns about setting fees before Aberdeen does. They don’t want to price rural medical marijuana businesses out of the market.

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