CLAYTON — The St. Louis County Council has advanced a measure that will enforce a 1,000-foot buffer between medical marijuana dispensaries and schools, day care centers and churches.
The council voted 4-3 Tuesday to send the bill to a final vote, probably Sept. 10. Rita Heard Days, D-1st District, joined the council’s three Republicans in voting yes. The bill affects only the county’s unincorporated areas, as municipalities can set their own buffer zones.
The planning commission voted in July to recommend a 300-foot buffer be required, same as a retail pharmacy. It later expanded that to 500 feet, but the council sent the measure back again.
Tim Fitch, R-3rd District, said in remarks after the meeting that it was important to have a large buffer zone. “The concern is today we are talking about medical marijuana, tomorrow we will be talking about full recreation like we are seeing going on around the country.”
“Most of those states that passed their medical marijuana buffer zones are now stuck with the same buffer zone for fully recreational marijuana use,” he said. “So we want to go into this cautiously. … If we decide as a council that this needs to be less at some point in the future we can pass that legislation.”
Officials continued to scrutinize the county’s relationship with Bi-State Development as the council balked at the agency’s request for $164.3 million from St. Louis County to operate the Metro transit district for the year that started July 1.
The council scheduled a meeting for 2 p.m. Sept. 10 with security consultants who conducted a systemwide security assessment of MetroLink and are now overseeing a security revamp.
The firm, WSP USA Inc. of New York, called for better coordination with police in St. Louis, St. Louis County and St. Clair County and criticized Metro’s own public safety department for having been “competitive to law enforcement, not complementary to law enforcement.”
The council recently approved a bond refinance to allow Bi-State to provide about $20 million for new public safety measures.
In remarks to the council on Tuesday, County Executive Sam Page suggested the county may be preparing to unilaterally shake up Metro’s security.
Page told the council that “the eight of us at this table must now work together to explore new, creative ways to fund and oversee the security on MetroLink.”
Page discussed a video shared on social media in recent days of a Bi-State security officer pulling a weapon.
“That video confirms what we know to be true,” Page said. “Bi-State security needs more training, more professionalism and a new approach.”
And he took another shot at St. Clair County, which, because of a change to Illinois law signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, will have one more seat on the Bi-State board than St. Louis County, even though it contributes about one-third of what St. Louis County pays for the system.
“Unfortunately, only those of us in St. Louis — in the city and the county — seem to care very much about making MetroLink safe,” Page said. “St. Clair County may run Bi-State now, but our public safety in St. Louis is too important to leave in their hands.”