Council approves temporary medical cannabis ordinance


City action puts licenses on hold until state rules are in place

BROOKINGS – The Brookings City Council approved a temporary ordinance to put on hold any permits or licenses regarding medical cannabis establishments until the state puts together guidance on the subject.

The council also approved a temporary alcohol license for Downtown at Sundown, which starts its five-week run on July 22.

Both votes were 6-0 with Councilor Joey Collins absent.

Medical cannabis

Mike Struck, director of Community Development, explained the background for the medical cannabis ordinance. 

“This is a temporary ordinance that is primarily being enacted on to buy time,” Struck said.

The cannabis laws were set to take effect July 1, but the state Department of Health has until Oct. 29 to set rules and regulations for the licensing, Struck said. 

“This temporary ordinance provides the opportunity for the city to deny an application for a cannabis establishment. Part of it is because we don’t know what rules and regulations we need to abide by on the licensing side yet,” Struck said.

He said city staff was working with other communities in the state and nation that have experience with cannabis regulations “and are close to having some zoning ordinances in place to bring forward to the Planning Commission starting potentially in July,” Struck said, adding the city attorney was “heavily involved” in the process. Those ordinances would eventually come before the council.

Councilor comments

Councilor Nick Wendell said he was curious how quickly the city could start accepting applications after the Department of Health issues regulations.

“It has prompted us to get our licensing ordinance in pretty good shape,” City Attorney Steve Britzman said. 

Yvonne Taylor from the Municipal League is on a committee with the Department of Health to oversee development of those rules, so he expects “to know when those rules are coming down.”

In the meantime, the city needs to work on the licensing ordinance, he said.

Britzman expects the Department of Health rules will be statewide requirements.

“On the other hand, we can’t issue a license until we know what those actual Department of Health regulations are,” Britzman said, so the city has been doing two things: coming up with the temporary ordinance before the council and working on the licensing for the establishments.

Britzman expected to know more about the status after a conference call scheduled for Thursday afternoon.

“What this ordinance really does is it buys us more time, because it is kind of two separate issues,” Struck said, adding the licensing syncs with the state’s regulations; the zoning side is up to local entities to identify where in the community would be appropriate for the cannabis establishments.

He said they hope to bring perimeters to the council in July.

Councilor Wayne Avery asked if the cities will have the right to restrict the number of licenses.

“Under the initiated measure, cities would have the prerogative to restrict the numbers. We cannot foreclose the opportunity to have a dispensary or make it impractical to be able to be licensed, but we can determine the number that we would recommend for licensing,” Britzman said.

Avery asked if there was any framework, such as the number being based on population.

The initiated measure doesn’t give guidance for cities to determine the number of dispensaries, Britzman said, adding Yankton’s initial ordinance has determined the number at two, but that’s subject to change.

Avery noted he’d heard Minnesota has restricted it to a very small number in the whole state.

“There really is no guidance other than one statute that would limit us to … we can’t restrict it so that we don’t have any, but other than that, we can determine what’s the appropriate number for this community,” Britzman said.

Councilor Patty Bacon asked about Britzman’s research in Colorado, which has had legal marijuana for years, and how those communities have determined the number of facilities.

Britzman said he didn’t have that information, but he could get it. He said he wasn’t seeing anything in the ordinances he’s been studying.

“We do have a cannabis consultant, which might be able to help us with that,” Britzman said.

Alcohol license

The council approved a temporary alcohol license for Downtown at Sundown, which is set for five Thursday nights in July and August. 

Ashley Biggar, director of key operations and development with the Brookings Area Chamber of Commerce, said the events will start at 5:30 p.m. with the headliner taking the stage at 6 p.m. The location has moved slightly east and expanded, taking over the east half of the 300 block of Fifth Street and the entire 400 block of Main Avenue in the downtown area. 

One change is no food and drink tickets will be issued and customers will pay cash, she said. 

Councilor Leah Brink asked if vendors will be responsible for carding those wanting to buy alcohol.

The responsibility does fall on the person handing the drink to the patron, Biggar said, adding a uniformed officer will be present at each event.

Mayor Ope Niemeyer asked if all the bands were booked.

Yes, the bands are booked and listed at downtownatsundown.org, Biggar said. Click on the Experience button and go to Lineup.

With moving the event to another street, Niemeyer wanted to know if the businesses are on board.

They contacted each business about the street being closed and to give them time for questions and feedback, Biggar said, adding the Chamber also contacted many of the businesses in the downtown area.

Contact Jodelle Greiner at [email protected]

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