By Barbara Taormina
City councillors weren’t able to finish crafting a recommendation for a marijuana ordinance in 2018, so the work will pick up again this month.
“This has taken a very long time,” said Ordinance Committee Chairman/Ward 4 Councillor Ryan O’Malley during one of the committee’s last and most contentious meetings of the year.
Members were frustrated by multiple drafts of an ordinance with different amendments. Councillors clashed over what should be included in the ordinance and what items should be part of the host community agreement which marijuana retailers must sign to receive a state license. It got personal with councillors swapping comments starting off with the icy phrase, “With all due respect.”
“The host agreement is pivotal in terms of money, employment and getting someone local to own the establishment,” said Councillor-at-Large Craig Spadafora. “It’s the meat and potatoes.”
Spadafora was concerned that some issues were covered by the ordinance that should be part of the host agreement, and vice versa. There were also open questions about the city’s local licensing process and who would serve on that licensing board.
Committee members did agree that potential retailers would be required to first hold a community meeting on their proposed business and then apply for a special permit under the city’s zoning ordinance. The next step would be to enter into a host community agreement with the city. Businesses would then need to get a state license and finally, a local license from the city. It’s a complicated process with a lot of moving parts and different responsibilities and roles that still seem to need clearer definitions.
Ordinance Committee members agreed it’s been a long haul, but they also agreed getting the marijuana ordinance right is the goal, not getting it done fast.
Ward 3 Councillor John Matheson said that cities and town where retail marijuana shops have opened had the advantage of already allowing medical marijuana. “I don’t think we’re behind a lot of communities,” he said.