Medical marijuana is coming to Missouri, whether municipalities are ready or not.
Fulton's government is trying to make sure the city is prepared.
"It's going to happen, so how do we prepare so it happens in as non-disruptive a manner as possible?" asked Bill Johnson, Fulton director of administration.
During Tuesday's Fulton City Council meeting, council members will discuss several proposed changes to zoning and city code related to medical marijuana. The meeting is at 7 p.m. at Fulton City Hall and is open to the public.
According to the agenda, the meeting will include the first reading of bills No. 1548, 1549 and 1550.
"We're about in the middle of the curve," Johnson said. "Many towns have already completed this step, but we chose to wait and see what ordinances other communities came up with."
Bill 1548 would alter the city's zoning laws to make way for medical marijuana cultivation, manufacturing and dispensary facilities. Dispensary and manufacturing facilities could be established in areas zoned as C-2 commercial districts or C-3 planned commercial/CEM districts.
Those are the same zones where businesses such as lumberyards, veterinary clinics, farm stores, miniature golf courses and plant nurseries are allowed. However, dispensary and manufacturing facilities would be excluded from the C-1 Central Business District, which encompasses much of downtown. The area is bounded, roughly, by Jefferson Street in the west, Bluff Street in the east, St. Louis Avenue in the north and First Street in the south.
"We decided we wanted to maintain the downtown as a traditional retail area, plus there's a large density of churches downtown," Johnson said.
Dispensaries and product manufacturing facilities would also be allowed in M-1 industrial districts. Medical marijuana cultivation facilities would be restricted to M-1 zones.
Tuesday's meeting will include time for a public hearing on Bill 1548.
If passed, Bill 1549 would add a lengthy section on medical marijuana to Chapter 22 of Fulton's city code, which addresses businesses. The bill addresses the operation and location of medical marijuana-related businesses, plus issues pertaining to home growth and use.
Businesses related to medical marijuana will not be required to have special city-issued licenses beyond a business license. The city has not yet received any license applications, though three companies have shown interest, Johnson said.
However, they will be subject to a number of other restrictions.
No medical marijuana dispensaries, product manufacturing facilities or cultivation facilities will be allowed within 500 feet of an extant elementary or secondary school, state-licensed child day care center or church.
"Many towns did 100 feet, some towns did 1,000 feet," Johnson said. "We had maps and drew circles. When we did a 1,000-foot circle, it only left about two properly zoned places in town where they'd be allowed."
He said the state made it clear towns were not allowed to use the distance restrictions to entirely exclude medical marijuana facilities.
Consumption of medical marijuana will not be allowed on-site, and the odor of marijuana shouldn't be detectable beyond the property line.
Dispensaries may only open their doors between 6:01 a.m. and 8:59 p.m. No one younger than 18 will be allowed in dispensaries, except for qualifying patients who have been emancipated or are accompanied by a parent or guardian. Dispensaries will be required to install security systems that include surveillance cameras, burglar alarms, a locking safe and exterior lighting.
Likewise, any outdoor operations or storage at a manufacturing or cultivation facility must be enclosed within a 10-foot-tall fence topped with razor wire.
The bill puts limitations on how medical marijuana products may be delivered — no drones.
The bill also addresses residential cultivation. Qualified patients may grow up to six flowering plants, but may not manufacture marijuana products — including edibles. Cultivation must take place within an enclosed, locked facility (like a house) and done in such a way as to prevent odors of marijuana from being detected beyond the lot's boundary.
Residents qualified to grow their own marijuana must notify the police chief and provide proof of eligibility.
Qualified patients may consume medical marijuana inside their residence or, with permission, in the residence of another — but the smoke and odor must not exit the residence. Johnson said he wasn't sure what the consequences of breaking that requirement would be.
The final bill would replace Chapter 78, Section 110-66 of the city code, which addresses controlled substances, with a new section addressing medical marijuana. The new section would exempt qualified patients from the offense of possession of marijuana, as long as they follow the rules (keeping the marijuana in its original packaging, for example).
Anyone in possession of marijuana will be required to produce a valid permit upon request of a law enforcement official. Failure to do so may be punishable by a fine of up to $100. Failure to keep medical marijuana in its original packaging is also punishable by a $100 fine.
Medical marijuana may not be consumed in public and may not be disposed of in an unsecured waste receptacle.
Johnson said the vast majority of the requirements and rules in the three bills were determined by the state Legislature.
The city had three main areas of input: zoning, hours of operation and distance of facilities from churches, elementary and secondary schools, and state-licensed daycares.
Full copies of all three bills are available at Fulton City Hall.
Also on Tuesday night's packed agenda are a resolution authorizing a contract for the renovation of the Route O Lift Station; a request to allow a car show in downtown Fulton Aug. 3; a request to waive the fee for an upcoming fundraiser in Memorial Park, and more discussion of the airport fuel and hangar rates