Bills aimed at preparing Fulton for medical marijuana's arrival moved forward during Tuesday evening's city council meeting.
The three bills each progressed through their first reading with minimal friction.
Tuesday's meeting included a public comment period for the first bill, which affects the city's zoning laws. Bill 1548 would allow dispensary and manufacturing facilities in C-2 and C-3 commercial districts and in M-1 industrial districts. Medical marijuana cultivation facilities would be restricted to M-1 zones.
No one came forward during the public comment period.
Bill 1549 addresses the operation and location of medical marijuana-related businesses, plus issues pertaining to home growth and use.
The bill talks about where medical marijuana-related businesses may be located. Much like liquor stores, they must be at least a minimum distance away from churches, elementary and secondary schools, and state-licensed day cares. Bill 1549 was slightly amended Tuesday to clarify how that distance is measured.
"We talked to an attorney who thought we should clarify how to measure the distance between structures," City Clerk Courtney Crowson said.
Initially, the city intended to measure using straight-line distances between the locations. However, the state and some other municipalities measure using walking distance — so, if one was walking from a church to a dispensary, the distance would factor in diversions around other buildings, across crosswalks and so on. The walking distance between two points may be longer than the straight-line distance.
Crowson said while the state has not made the latter method of measurement mandatory, it might. She proposed an amendment to add language that if the state mandates use of the walking distance, the city will begin using that method.
"This keeps us from having to come back in six months and introduce a new bill," Director of Administration Bill Johnson said.
Lastly, Bill 1550 addresses issues surrounding possession of marijuana — which is still broadly illegal, except for people who acquire a medical marijuana permit.
People possessing marijuana in public must be able to produce a permit when asked by police, or face a fine of up to $100.
"How are the police going to know that the person in possession of marijuana is allowed to have it if they don't have their card?" council member Lindsey Pace-Snook asked.
Fulton Police Chief Steve Myers explained after being cited, the person must appear in court with their permit. If it turns out the person isn't a qualified medical marijuana patient, they'll face the usual misdemeanor charge of marijuana possession.
"It'll be just like driving without a license," he said.
The state is also supposed to build a database of qualified patients accessible by police, he said.
Myers said quite a bit about how Missouri is going to handle medical marijuana is still up in the air. He recently attended a conference with dozens of other Missouri police chiefs at which a Department of Health and Senior Services representative spoke. (The DHS is responsible for handling the state's implementation of legal medical marijuana.)
"About 30 percent of the questions we asked, the answer was, 'I don't know, we're working on that,'" Myers said.