The Luther Town Board will discuss a Medical Marijuana ordinance at a Special Meeting Tuesday evening. Mayor Jenni White says the proposed ordinance is only a draft and is similar to proposals in other towns across the state preparing for the legalization of medical marijuana in Oklahoma.
White said there likely will be no ordinance passed tonight, the draft will be a discussion starter among the five elected trustees. She said public comments will be welcome a future meeting, likely on September 11. She said timing is more critical for the other agenda item for the Luther Public Works Authority, about water and sewer rates. A grant writer who is pursuing a Community Block Development Grant is making a presentation. The Town raised water and sewer rates a year ago, but White said the raise was not enough to make the town eligible for grant assistance to address the crumbling infrastructure.
Back to the other agenda item, about considering an ordinance about medical marijuana. With at least one application submitted for a local medical marijuana dispensary, White said the state question that Oklahoma voters approved in June has just one directive, and that’s the buffer of 1,000 feet between a dispensary and a school.
But Luther’s proposed ordinance also would prohibit a dispensary 1,000 feet from a library or museum, public or private playground, pool or park, child care center, church, halfway house, correctional facility, rehabilitation center, a residential area or another medical marijuana establishment. It must also be in a commercially zoned area. The Luther Register asked and was given a copy of the draft ordinance.
“The law is for people not for towns. Unfortunately, municipalities are going to get stuck in a really bad situation where the law doesn’t speak to it, but as a governing body you have the responsibility to do what you feel is best for the Town,” said White.
The draft Town ordinance also would NOT allow a retail medical marijuana dispensary on Ash, Main Street or on the frontage of SH66.
“I personally don’t have a problem with a medical marijuana dispensary in Luther … However, I do have a problem with it fronting 66 and a problem with it being near places kids are going to be,” White said, noting the Luther Public School’s Bus and Agriculture Barn on SH66.
“Why am I reticent about 66? It’s one of those things hard to explain …. while I respect the right of people to say this is what they wanted, I don’t know that for me personally that’s the first thing we want people to see driving down 66. I’m not saying it’s bad. I’m a big proponent of non-pharma medicine and cures … I’m not sure that we want to advertise to everybody … ‘Hey look. Here’s a place that’s gonna have money and gonna have pot,’ she said.
The proposed Luther Town ordinance only allows retail dispensaries and prohibits commercial, wholesale, and storage marijuana facilities within the “municipal boundaries” of the town; and also bans personal medical marijuana to be grown in Town. The ordinance does not set proposed application fees or set a local sales tax.
The new medical marijuana law calls for a 7% sales tax but that all goes to the State of Oklahoma. Information on the Oklahoma Municipal League’s website indicates the organization that represents towns and cities is waiting for direction from the Oklahoma Tax Commission about potential local sales tax revenue from legalizing prescription pot.
“On the surface SQ788 appears to provide municipalities the same ability as the state to collect a sales tax on medical marijuana purchases. Due to the absence of specific language addressing municipal sales tax in SQ 788, the League is currently working with the Oklahoma Tax Commission to verify municipalities ability to immediately collect sales tax once SQ 788 becomes effective,” Oklahoma Municipal League website.
The proposed Luther ordinance also dictates when a dispensary can be open, not past 9 pm, not on Sunday, and not on New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving nor Christmas.
Trustee Trandy Langston said on Saturday she planned to spend part of the weekend studying the proposed ordinance and the issue. “We just want to do what’s best for the citizens and businesses while protecting long-term growth for the Town. We can not properly function without ordinances and I hope everyone understands,” said Langston.
Extensive application requirements for opening a medical marijuana dispensary with the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority include a $2500 non-refundable application fee. Each application must include the dispensary’s location, and proof, through GPS, of its distance from a school.