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Morehead planning commission approves zoning for medical marijuana businesses in city limits

Sydney Graham

After Morehead City Council voted not to put the matter of allowing medicinal cannabis businesses in city limits on the November ballot, the issue was taken to the Morehead-Rowan County-Lakeview Heights Joint Planning Commission. Bill Shely is chairman of the commission.

“Today we have a public hearing on the zone text amendment to discuss medical cannabis regulations,” said Shely.

Specifically, the commission was tasked with identifying areas in town where such businesses could be located.

The meeting was open to the public but was attended nearly exclusively by local officials, including Morehead City Council Member Edna Schack, who told the room implementing medical marijuana is complicated.

“When I first heard about it, it was a little bit daunting, because I have relatives that live in other states, and they’ve not done a really good job in those other states of thinking this through,” said Schack.

Those concerns initially dominated much of the meeting. David Mirus identified himself with the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office. He wanted to know what kind of items will be sold in dispensaries, sparking a back and forth.

“If they get a license to distribute medical marijuana, what else can they sell in that…” said Mirus.

“It’s incredibly limited,” said Schack.

“As a cannabis dispensary, they could sell that, they could sell over-the-counter products. They could sell CBD oil,” said Shely.

“I’m not so certain about that,” said Schack.

According to the state, a dispensary shall not sell anything other than medical cannabis, its products, and accessories. Additionally, no pre-rolled marijuana is allowed to be sold.

Discussion continued for some time before planning commission members took up the matter at hand, which zones could and should these buildings go in.

“Right, question number one, agriculture districts in the city,” said Shely.

The commission considered five different business types to zone, cultivators, processors, producers, safety compliance facilities, and dispensaries.

In the initial rollout, statewide there will be a total of 16 cultivators, 10 processors, 48 dispensaries, and any number of Safety Compliance Facilities. Rodney Fouch pointed out that these limits will likely not always be in place.

“What we’ll be looking at today is important, and it’s easy to say ‘Well, we might have one, we might only have one’, but also I think it’s important to realize that that’s going to change,” said Fouch.

Fouch gave his zoning recommendations to the planning commission and said making a firm decision now will set a precedent for future expansion.

While the state mandates that none of these facilities may be within 1,000 feet of any school or daycare, commission member Robin Mirus didn’t think these restrictions were enough.

“Regarding the 1,000 foot on the dispensaries and some of the other things, in other words extending it to parks, churches, I just think, and I believe museums is what they used, I just think that’s a better situation for the city and the city members,” said Mirus.

In the end, expanded restrictions were not put forward with the vote. The motion passed 6-2.

With the vote, the City of Morehead is poised to allow Cultivators, Processors, and Producers to set up businesses in Agricultural and Industrial zones, Safety Compliance Facilities in Business and Industrial zones, and Dispensaries in all business zones within city limits. City Planner Rodney Fouch said it is a good outcome.

“I think we got accomplished what we had to get accomplished. The medical cannabis is here and so we’re tasked with deciding where it could be bought, cultivated, processed, what have you, and we did what we had to do,” said Fouch.