State binds city’s/hospital’s hands on medical cannabis
Nov 11, 2019 04:04PM
By Shaun Delliskave
Rocky Mountain Hemp would need to relocate due to its proximity to a residential neighborhood in order to sell medical cannabis. (Shaun Delliskave/City Journals)
By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]
If you are a patient at Intermountain Medical Center (IMC) and your doctor believes you can best be treated with medicinal cannabis, you will need to leave the building and pretty much all of Murray to pick up the prescription. Utah’s state legislature passed a law requiring all cities to amend their municipal code to restrict areas where pharmacies could dispense medical marijuana; Murray City Council adopted the change at the Oct. 4 city council meeting.
Sen. Evan Vickers of Cedar City helped pass Utah Code, Section 26-61a-102. It restricts medical cannabis pharmacies from being located within 600 feet of a community location like a public or private school, church, public library, public playground or public park, or within an area that is zoned as primarily residential.
With these restrictions, Intermountain Healthcare’s IMC and The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital, and the University of Utah’s Midvalley Health Center fall easily within that prohibited zoning. Consequently, the vast majority of Murray would not be open to such a pharmacy, the exceptions being the industrial warehouse areas near 4500 South.
Community and Economic Development Director Melinda Greenwood reported at the Sept. 5 planning commission meeting, “These businesses are looking for a location to operate and have a very limited circle of opportunity. Additional complications associated with hospitals are because medical cannabis is still against federal law, and these essentially have to be stand-alone locations. You won’t see this product in a corner pharmacy store or in hospitals because they can’t comply with other regulations for dispensing medications that are not legal through the federal laws.”
Industrial manufacturing zones generally run through the center of Murray, accessed by significant roads and freeways, and Murray has seen much interest from pharmacies and cultivators. But Murray City has rezoned many agricultural zones to be residential zones; therefore, pharmacies have limited options around the hospitals.
Planning Commissioner Maren Patterson stated, “…municipalities are being mandated to comply, and we should keep as much control as possible, but the places that are being allowed to dispense as a pharmacy are in an odd part of town that you have to go to get your medicine, as opposed to a medical zone.”
Likewise, medicinal cannabis cultivators, such as Wholesome Ag, have scouted out Murray’s industrial zone. Wholesome Ag has identified a building that they feel is suitable for their operations. The restrictions for a cannabis production establishment are even stricter than a pharmacy. Producers may not be located within 1,000 feet of a community location (as described above) or within 600 feet of an area zoned primarily residential.
“If we move to Murray, it is because we have identified a location on Cherry Street in which we are interested. Our intentions are to move forward in an expeditious timeline and hoped that a formal introduction of our group here tonight (the Sept. 5 Murray Planning Commission Meeting) would help,” Wholesome Ag Government Affairs Officer Alex Iorg said.
lorg stated that he just became aware of an announcement of a special session that will take place in the legislature in a couple of weeks that could significantly change the medical cannabis bill and could have some impact on current state laws. He also mentioned that in other states, the rules are continually being revised and are under scrutiny because this is a new industry.
Planning Commissioner Phil Markham stated that if changes are produced from the special legislative session, then the city would have to act accordingly. Markham echoed other commissioners’ thoughts that the city should not willingly give up local control of issues like this unless local control is taken away by the state legislature.