Pictured above: HCI, a medical marijuana dispensary located in Collinsville, Illinois. Photo by Erin Achenbach.
By Erin Achenbach
Despite not having its own approved ordinances in the books, St. Louis County received over 30 applications for medical marijuana facilities as the state’s deadline for applications for marijuana operators came and went last week — and most of them are in South County.
The county received a total of 34 applications for facilities: 24 applications for dispensaries, six applications for cultivation facilities and four applications for infused product manufacturing facilities, said acting Planning Director Gail Choate. The county did not receive any applications for testing facilities.
Most applications were for locations in County Council District 6, which includes Lemay, Oakville, Concord and part of Affton. The county will only cover zoning for unincorporated St. Louis County, while municipalities will govern marijuana zoning for incorporated areas.
“We had no idea how many applications to expect,” said Choate.
Applications for dispensaries were in the C2, C3 and C8 commercial zoning districts, and cultivation and manufacturing facility applications were for M1, M2 and M3 industrial zoning districts, Choate said.
On Aug. 19, the Planning Commission revisited its proposed ordinance for medical marijuana facilities and voted to increase the buffer for all facilities to 1,000 feet, after facing resistance from the County Council’s Public Improvements Committee.
The Planning Commission had originally proposed a 300-foot buffer for dispensaries and no buffer for all other facilities, but the committee, referred to as the PIC, sent the proposal back to the commission on July 16 for further consideration.
The commission then returned with a 500-foot buffer for dispensaries and maintained a zero buffer for other facilities, but that proposal was also sent back Aug. 6 with a strong recommendation to make the buffer for all facilities 1,000 feet, the maximum allowed under the state medical marijuana amendment.
Because the County Council will not receive the Planning Commission’s revised proposal until Aug. 27, applications are being judged against current zoning ordinances and the Department of Planning staff’s interpretation of those ordinances and the amendment.
Under staff’s interpretation, medical marijuana facilities are allowed in zoning districts that the commission’s ordinance proposal did not originally include.
Under the Planning Commission’s ordinance proposal, facilities would not be allowed in R1 residential zoning districts, but under interpretation of the current zoning code, outdoor cultivation is allowed in R1. Additionally in the NU nonurban and KP districts, outdoor cultivation is a permitted use; under the commission’s proposal, it would be a conditional use and would require a public hearing. Under the interpretation of the current zoning code, medical marijuana dispensaries are allowed in the C1 neighborhood shopping district, which would not be allowed under the commission’s recommendation.
The M1 industrial districts under both the interpretations and the commission’s proposal are authorized for cultivation, manufacturing and testing facilities.
The state began accepting applications for businesses interested in medical marijuana facilities Aug. 3. The application window was originally slated to close Aug. 17, but on Aug. 15 the state extended the application deadline to 4:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 19.
At the Aug. 6 PIC meeting, Planner Jacob Trimble said that the department had already denied some of the applications it had received at that point. Four total applications were denied due to incorrect zoning.
A news release dated Aug. 21 from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, which oversees medical marijuana for the state, said that it had received 2,163 online applications by the deadline.
Over 1,200 of those applications came in the final three days of the application period, with over 800 applications submitted in the last 24 hours. The state received over $13 million in application fees.
Across the state, the department plans to license 60 cultivation facilities, 192 dispensaries, 86 infused manufacturing facilities and 10 testing facilities.
Dispensaries, the type of facility that the general public will have the most interaction with, will be limited to 24 dispensaries per each of the state’s eight congressional districts.