Government & Politics

Kansas City Council strikes deal on medical marijuana proximity to schools, churches

Medical marijuana dispensaries will be allowed closer to schools than initially planned under a compromise struck Thursday by the Kansas City council.

Missouri voters in November voted to legalize medical marijuana through a constitutional amendment.

As the state prepares for the advent of legal medical marijuana and as potential cannabis entrepreneurs prepare to set up shop, Kansas City was under pressure to set regulations for the emerging industry.

Last month, council members disagreed over a minimum distance between medical marijuana-related businesses and schools, churches and day care facilities. The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee opted for a 750-foot buffer zone, but a failed floor amendment from Mayor-elect Quinton Lucas, the 3rd District at-large councilman, would have allowed the businesses closer. The council sent it back to committee for further discussion.

The ordinance passed Thursday places medical marijuana facilities a minimum of 300 feet away from schools, churches and day care facilities. Cultivators, manufacturers and testers face the same distance requirement for day care facilities and churches, but they must be at least 750 feet from schools.

Lucas, who favored a 300-foot buffer for all businesses, called the compromise sensible.

“I think the balance that we struck today is consistent with cities...that have found compromises on this,” Lucas said.

Under the constitutional amendment, cities are allowed to create buffer zones as large as 1,000 feet. In Springfield, cultivators, manufacturers and dispensaries can’t set up shop within 1,000 feet of schools. Dispensaries and smaller manufacturers, like bakeries, are subject to a 200-foot buffer, according to the Springfield News-Leader.

St. Louis created no buffer zone. St. Joseph and North Kansas City decided on 300-foot buffer zones.

Lucas said he believed medical marijuana to be a closely regulated business and that liquor and tobacco were much more likely to end up in the hands of children.

Missouri voters’ approval of medical marijuana kicked off a process to set up what has become a burgeoning industry in other states.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services released application forms for potential patients to bring to their doctors last month and is vetting applications.

The agency won’t begin screening business applications until Aug. 3, but it has already received 554 pre-filed from across the state and almost $4 million in fees as of July 2. Jackson County leads the state in applications to grow and sell medical marijuana.

DHSS has 150 days to evaluate applications after they’re received, so the first dispensaries probably won’t open until December or January.

The ordinance passed 10-2 Thursday with Councilman Kevin McManus, 6th District, and Councilman Scott Taylor, 6th District at-large, voting against it. Lucas was absent for a family function.

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the size of buffer zones in Springfield. It has been updated.
The Star’s Andy Marso contributed to this report.
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Allison Kite reports on City Hall and local politics for The Star. She joined the paper in February 2018 and covered Midterm election races on both sides of the state line. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism with minors in economics and public policy from the University of Kansas.