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Billings City Council buys time to further craft marijuana business laws

Posted at 9:57 PM, Sep 13, 2021

BILLINGS — At its Monday meeting, the Billings City Council bought 90-days of time to delay the licensure and zoning applications of marijuana businesses until laws governing the businesses can be put on the books.

"You have a lot of work to do yet on these regulations. It would essentially undermine the work that you are currently doing to establish those regulations for marijuana businesses if you were to issue business licenses prior to enacting the zoning ordinance," City Attorney Gina Dahl told the Council in her presentation ahead of the vote.

The council passed two ordinances, one regarding zoning and one regarding business licenses. Click here to view links to the ordinances via the Council agenda.

The delay allows city staff more time to research potential impacts to the community from allowing six different types of marijuana businesses into the city. Some business types include: cultivation, manufacturer, testing lab and transportation.

New laws produced by further research and Council discussion are expected address where and how many of the marijuana business types could set up shop, along with whether any product testing will be required at the city level.

State law calls out a total of seven types of marijuana businesses. Billings voters will decide in a Nov. 2 election whether to prohibit recreational marijuana dispensaries from opening their doors in the city.

The city has identified 27 medical marijuana dispensaries that are technically in Yellowstone County, but close to city borders. Starting the first of next year, providing they are in good standing with state and local regulations, the dispensaries will be able to sell recreational marijuana to adults over the age of 21.

Dahl mentioned one medical marijuana dispensary licensed by the city and currently operating in the city limits. The ordinances delaying licensure do not affect that business, Dahl said.

"There is a court-issued temporary restraining order that prohibits the city from revoking or limiting the existing license of this one dispensary. The proposed ordinance targets only new applicants," Dahl said.

City Administrator Chris Kukulski said the council is on a tight deadline to get laws governing marijuana businesses on the books before the first of the new year.

"We're within 30 days of needing to present a draft to the public. There may be one or two committee meetings that come together between then. Depending upon the progress that we make this week and next, but I would say most of the dialogue is going to take place at this table in this room with all of you in public meetings," Kukulski said.

RELATED: State updates proposed rules on medical marijuana advertising in response to providers' feedback