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Medical marijuana

Courtesy of 123rf.com

ELLISVILLE — While Mayor Mike Roemerman said he was concerned that the state won’t start issuing licenses for the facilities until next year, he and the Ellisville City Council, on Wednesday (Oct. 16) gave final approval to rezoning, a site development plan and a conditional use permit to allow for a new medical marijuana dispensary at 184 Clarkson Road.

Allan Hug, with parent company Standard Wellness LLC, had asked to open the dispensary, which will be called The Forest.

He said the facility, which will resemble a residential building, would have a lobby and, after those with medical marijuana cards provide credentials, they would be allowed into a sales area, with all products behind a counter. Video surveillance would cover the entire site, he said.

It likely will be mid-January before the state approves licenses for dispensaries, he said.

After the license is issued, it would take his company about three months to build out the interior of the new facility, Hug said.

He said that, while the total amount will depend upon the number of medical marijuana cards issued by the state, he estimated the store’s annual revenue to be from $2.5 million to $3 million.

“That will be a productive use of that space,” Councilman Dan Duffy said.

Hug said his firm also has applied for a state license for a marijuana growing facility, expected to be in Vandalia, Illinois.

Nancy Bengtson, a resident and a member of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, said, during public comment, that she opposed the plan.

“Some of our council have expressed a desire to be the first city in the area to acquire a dispensary,” she said.

“(But) with the development of those businesses comes responsibility to our citizens to establish rules to protect both the patients and the young people who might be living in those households (where adults use marijuana).”

She contended that marijuana affects the development of adolescent brains, She added that new types of marijuana have been developed to have a higher THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana) level than in the past, which “are more destructive to the developing brain.”

“In areas where marijuana is distributed, hospitals report higher numbers of children accidentally consuming (the product) and requiring medical attention,” she said, saying Ellisville needs to mandate education and safe storage requirements for marijuana.

She urged the city council to take steps such as requiring dispensaries to post notices, or offer pamphlets in the waiting area, to warn adults of potential brain damage to children from the product and suggest safe storage practices.

“Please show our residents that we don’t want to just be the first to collect revenue but we want to be the best at protecting our young people,” Bengtson said.

Roemerman said he struggled with a change in zoning “so far in advance, for a business that has not yet been approved by the state.”

“If this business doesn’t get approval from the state, somebody else (another dispensary) could come in, as a permitted use, if we rezone,” he said.

Ada Hood, city planner and director of the city’s planning and community development department, told Roemerman that office uses could be permitted by right at the site and that dispensaries could be conditionally permitted there. Hood said recalling a conditional use permit at the site (after issuance) would require a Planning and Zoning Commission recommendation and City Council approval.

But Duffy said the zoning — from residential to commercial — should be changed, to be consistent with other existing businesses, including many offices, on that part of Clarkson.

“Residential zoning is inappropriate for that property — we should make the change, if this business goes in or not,” he said.

Also that night, Roemerman and the Council gave final approval to a conditional use permit for Missouri Baptist Medical Center/BJC Medical Group to operate an outpatient center at 15830 Fountain Plaza Drive, the site of the former Lucky’s Market.

Dan Burke, an attorney representing the operators, said that the facility would have space for physicians, including specialists, as well as offer services such as ultrasound, mammography, bone density and other tests. Fifty customer parking spots will be available for the facility, which would allow for 50 local employee jobs, he said.

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