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Whitefish marijuana dispensaries ‘rules of proximity’

by Giuseppe Caltabiano
| January 18, 2023 1:00 AM

I am writing to acknowledge and address all the emails, text messages, and telephone calls from citizens (both my supporters and non) concerned by the number, proximity, and location of dispensaries in downtown Whitefish.

In 2020 the citizens of Montana passed I-190 legalizing recreational marijuana for adult use and the legislature subsequently passed HB 701 further refining the program.

In 2021 the Whitefish City Council worked with the City Staff on an ordinance regulating the rules and standard to allow dispensaries within city limits (as well as manufacturing, cultivating, and testing facilities).

Ordinance 21-17 was approved and confirmed in the second reading on Nov. 15, 2021.

The core of the ordinance regarding “proximity” states (formatting is mine):

“No marijuana facility is permitted from locales within 500' of and addressed on the same street as a building used exclusively as a church or public school”

.....

“Additionally, no marijuana facility shall be located on Spokane Avenue between Railway Street and East Second Street.”

.....

“No marijuana dispensary may be located within 150' of and addressed on the same street as another marijuana dispensary, with the exception that in the WB-1 and WB-2 zones, no marijuana dispensary may be located within 500' of and addressed on the same street as another marijuana dispensary.”

At that meeting I made a public comment (I had been elected on that same Council but not yet sworn in) asking the Council to amend the ordinance by striking the wording “of and addressed on the same street as” out.

That would have prevented a “loophole” which would allow a dispensary and a church for example to be closer than 500 feet as long as their addresses are on different streets, in other words, one around the corner from the other!

My comment, which is on record in the meeting’s minutes, was ignored.

Now the public is realizing that we are having dispensaries located closer to a church or to each other than the 500 feet they thought, because their street addresses are different, and this is raising concern and pressure to the city’s leadership.

My understanding is that the Council will work on this matter, with the aim of eventually amending the ordinance, at a Public Work Session on Feb. 6.

All public comments should be addressed to the City of Whitefish and can be emailed or presented in person during our meetings.

Giuseppe Caltabiano, Whitefish City Council member

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