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In this Sept. 20, 2018, file photo, an employee at an Ohio medical marijuana cultivator works on topping a marijuana plant. (AP Photo/David Dermer)

ST. LOUIS — City aldermen on Friday gave preliminary approval to zoning rules for medical marijuana facilities, deciding against imposing a buffer zone separating them from elementary and high schools, churches and day cares.

The state law approved by Missouri voters last year sets a 1,000-foot distance requirement regarding such locations but allows local governments to waive it.

St. Louis zoning officials recommended doing just that because they say the city’s high density would make it very difficult to find any sites meeting the 1,000-foot standard.

“It would be pretty hard to do anything anywhere,” the ordinance’s sponsor, Alderman Jack Coatar, D-7th Ward, said in an interview. “You’d be very limited.”

The measure instead allows dispensaries selling marijuana products in city commercial districts if selected by state health officials, who will decide which applications will be accepted.

“We create a framework that allows access to these places,” he told fellow aldermen Friday. “These are not liquor stores, these are not corner stores, these are medical facilities” for people with debilitating diseases.

However, Coatar said, neighborhoods would have some input on whether dispensaries could be in some commercial districts close to residences.

A public hearing and approval by a city board would be required for dispensaries in such areas. Examples include a stretch of Morganford Road north of Chippewa Street and segments of Hampton Avenue and South Broadway.

The bill limits marijuana cultivation areas and product manufacturing to industrial areas. The measure needs another vote by aldermen to gain final passage.

Aldermen on Friday also:

• Gave preliminary approval to requiring candidates for city offices to show receipts or other proof that they owe no outstanding local taxes or water and refuse bills.

The bill also would require the city collector of revenue to notify the Election Board after the candidate filing deadline whether any have delinquencies.

• Began debate but took no action on a controversial bill to hold another citywide election on whether the number of wards and aldermen shall be cut in half.

Under a city charter amendment passed by voters in 2012, the Board of Aldermen in 2021 is to cut the wards to 14 from 28. The push for a re-vote is from black members who say the reduction would result in less effective representation for African Americans.

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