Allows one dispensary within city limits, per 1,500 people
By Charity Maness
HOT SPRINGS – Members of the public addressed both concern and praise for the Cannabis Dispensary Ordinance at the Hot Springs City Council meeting held this past Monday, September 20, which was also a joint public hearing with the Planning Commission.
“I had a chance to read the ordinance on the website and wanted to compliment everyone who has been working on it,” said Beth Spitzer. “I am not in support of cannabis at all but since we are being required to write the ordinance that we write it to limit it and encourage the permit fee increase to 10K.”
“It is an excellent ordinance,” said Mayor Bob Nelson, extending his thanks to fellow chairpersons Bill Lukens and JR Huddleston for their hard work on the ordinance.
The ordinance to amend Title XI adding Chapter 116 Cannabis Establishments, in part, will allow one cannabis dispensary within the city limits of Hot Springs, per 1,500 residents based on the latest US census data.
Location requirements also must be met: not less than 1,000 feet from a public or private school which existed prior to the date of dispensary application; no dispensaries will be allowed to operate out of a home, or building with mixed commercial and residential uses; no dispensary may share premises with a business that sells alcohol or tobacco.
Sarah Bechtum raised concerns about location restrictions, questioning if businesses have the opportunity for appeals regarding dispensary locations, as well as how the ordinance covers manufacturing and cultivating.
“State law sets the 1,000 feet distance,” explained council member Bill Lukens, “but we could choose to put other restrictions in for businesses such as daycares, churches etc, but can’t make so restrictive that we prohibit the dispensaries so they cannot exist.”
Lukens went on to address her manufacturing and cultivation concerns. “Current ordinance does not allow for anything but dispensaries.” Further explaining that it would take a revision of the ordinance to license any other type of business associated with marijuana cultivation, manufacturing, etc.
Council member JR Huddleston reiterated Lukens remarks stating, “We will address those issues as they come along manufacturing, etc. We are currently trying to come in compliance with state requirements for medical distribution facilities.”
The ordinance requires an annual application fee of $5,000. The application requires the names, addresses and birth dates of each principal owner – all required to be over the age of 21 ¬– as well as a sworn affidavit that none of the aforementioned have been convicted of a violent felony within the past 10 years. A submission of a site plan which includes access and egress, security, refuse plan, zoning compliance and more will also be required. The City of Hot Springs also retains the right to obtain additional information from each applicant.
Multiple avenues for suspension and revocation of a license – which are not transferrable – as well as an appeal process exist within the framework of the ordinance.
While Hot Springs addresses the cannabis dispensary issue, Fall River County is also working towards that goal.
At the Fall River county commission meeting held Sept. 7, the commission approved the second reading of the county medical establishment licensing allowing one dispensary in the county outside municipalities. However, the State’s Attorney Lance Russell informed the commission that some state law makers had made changes to proposed rules for medical cannabis licensing the week prior to the commissions meeting which hinders forward motion and may create a need for additional changes to the county’s ordinance.
All cannabis dispensaries are subject to state and local licensing laws. Providing false licensing is a felony under state law.
While all data of medical marijuana cardholder applicants is considered confidential with certain caveats such as falsifying information, apparent criminal violation and practitioner violation of standard of care.
With the passage of the first reading of the cannabis ordinance, the council scheduled the second reading to be held at their next meeting on Monday, Oct. 4.