A medicinal cannabis dispensary is seeking a license to operate in Troy city limits, and at the monthly work meeting of the Troy City Council Wednesday, neighboring businesses raised objections not to the dispensary itself, but to it being next to their businesses.
The proposed business would be a dispensary only, and neither cultivation nor production of products such as “edibles” — candy or baked goods infused with the active ingredients of marijuana — would take place there, business owner Barb Turner told the council.
Turner and her husband, Jon Meister, operate Alternative Releaf, which has a dispensary on the western edge of Libby city limits on Highway 2.
According to a business license application filed with Troy, the dispensary would employ one full-time and two part-time employees.
Turner told the council they intend to hire people who live in the Troy area, and that they already has the full-time employee picked out. She did not name the woman, but said that she is a “pillar of the community,” and loved by residents of Troy.
Turner is requesting to do business at 42 South 7th Street in Troy.
She told the council that one of the difficulties in finding a location in Troy was meeting the requirement to be at least 500 feet from a church. The location that is open to rent in a small strip mall on 7th Street was the only one she could find that met that requirement.
After providing the council with several sheets detailing the strict regulatory and inspection regime her business must comply with, Turner fielded questions, primarily from Mayor Dallas Carr and Council Member T.J. Boswell.
In 10 years of operation, Turner said their dispensary has never been out of compliance with regulations against things such as consumption on the premises and the tracking and destruction requirements to ensure that no product finds its way into illegal use.
Turner told the council their interest in opening a second dispensary farther west is to better serve their clients, most of whom are terminally ill or disabled. For those living in Troy or the Yaak, the weekly travel to Libby adds difficulty to their already difficult situations.
Councilor Crystal Denton asked whether the legal requirement that minors not be allowed in the store unless accompanied by an adult would allow anyone over 18 to bring in any child. In follow-up, Boswell asked what Turner's company policy is.
Turner said they allow adults to bring a minor in the store only in cases such as a parent or grandparent who is looking after the minor in question.
The company also has a stricter policy than the law requires in regard to hiring felons.
State law does allow for felons who are not otherwise precluded from the job to work at dispensaries, Turner said. However, their company has a policy against hiring felons.
Regarding security, Turner said measures including a loud alarm and automatic notification of police could deter not only acts against her business, but undesirable or criminal activity nearby.
Christie Nichols, who owns and runs Christie's Hair Salon in the strip mall, was first to speak to the council in objection to the proposed dispensary.
She noted in a letter to the council, which she read out loud with small addendums, that she has worked for 23 years in Troy, with 15 of those years operating her shop in the strip mall where Turner would like to locate a dispensary.
Nichols said she was concerned about smells, and the discomfort some of her clients might feel, even to the degree that they stop being clients.
She also said she is worried that the building's thin walls would allow the smell of marijuana to seep into her space, which she feared might also cause her to lose clients.
After some discussion of the ventilation Nichols is required to have in her shop and disagreement over whether how marijuana is packaged would lead to noticeable smells, Tuner and Meister said they would be willing to come to an arrangement to alleviate odor-related concerns.
Reading the law
Even after 90 minutes of discussing topics from security procedures to types of marijuana and the medical issues they are used to treat, the subject may be moot without changing Troy City Code.
Without a legal opinion, there was disagreement Wednesday as to whether a provision in the code regarding business licenses would prevent the council from issuing a license to a dispensary without changing the code.
The provision states the city cannot license a business that is “prohibited by any law of the United States.”
Unlike in Libby, where the dispensary had to be located outside city limits because the city's charter prohibits violating federal law, Troy city code can be changed by the city council with just a vote.
However, none present at the meeting brought up changing city code if it is confirmed existing code would prohibit a dispensary within city limits.