Medical marijuana has detractors despite favorable ordinances | News

February 17th, 2019 by admin Leave a reply »

City councilors clung closely to the language of a state question approved by voters in June that legalized medical marijuana in Oklahoma, adopting ordinances that fostered growth of the fledgling industry. 

That policy helped the city sidestep legal challenges from industry advocates and sparked an enthusiastic response among entrepreneurs eager to enter the business. There are others in Muskogee who have resisted the change that accompanied legalization of medical marijuana, an initiative that garnered support of 57 percent of the voters who cast ballots in the June primary election. 

The resistance in Muskogee mainly has come from church officials and congregants who have expressed concern that dispensaries could attract more crime in neighborhoods where vandalism and theft already cause problems. While State Question 788 provides for a 1,000-foot buffer between public or private school entrances and any retail marijuana establishment, there are no similar provisions for churches.

The voter-approved initiative petition prohibits municipalities from “unduly” changing or “restricting zoning laws” in a way that prevents “the opening of a retail marijuana establishment.” A Muskogee ordinance that regulates business permits for medical marijuana-related businesses adheres to zoning provisions set forth in SQ 788. 

The permitting structure has created some friction for Board of Adjustment members, who have fielded requests for variances to zoning regulations. They have approved most requests, but denied two requests primarily due to the proximity to churches. 

One applicant whose request for a variance to the local commercial zoning restrictions was denied subsequently sought to rezone property that has been vacant for more

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