Pubdate: Thu, 15 Jul 2010
Source: Missoulian (MT)
Copyright: 2010 Missoulian
Author: Keila Szpaller
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


Missoula's medical marijuana "no-fly zones" turn out to be more 
fly-at-your-own-risk areas.

"It's a heavy-duty caution zone," said Mike Barton, head of the 
Office of Planning and Grants.

OPG and the city attorney's office crossed wires on the map showing 
buffers around schools, Barton said Wednesday. OPG took the buffers 
to be places medical marijuana distribution isn't allowed, but city 
attorney Jim Nugent said that's not quite right.

The turnaround means several "home occupation" permit requests once 
headed for denial will be approved as long as other conditions are 
met. Barton said it's just a handful of requests, two or three.

"It affects very few applications, but because it has to do with 
marijuana, it gains a lot of attention," Barton said.


Nugent said the problem is ambiguity in state law. One law allows 
medical marijuana; another, MCA 45-9-109, prohibits the distribution 
of dangerous drugs on or within 1,000 feet of school grounds. The 
schools law doesn't address medical marijuana - and should, Nugent said.

Because the school-proximity prohibition comes with severe penalties 
- - a minimum of three years and maximum of life in prison - Nugent 
said folks who want to set up shop in those areas need to be 
forewarned. The areas amount to an estimated 17 percent of the city proper.

"It mostly is a courtesy to these folks to let them know," Nugent 
said. "Beware: You could be assuming some significant risk."

Certainly, some people will be distributing medical marijuana without 
contacting the city, Nugent said.

Some folks might believe their compliance with the Medical Marijuana 
Act means they are acting lawfully, he said, but the schools law is 
silent on the matter.

"It's ambiguous at best, and because of that ambiguity, we're just 
trying to give a cautionary heads up," Nugent said.

The schools law prohibits distribution of dangerous drugs, and Nugent 
said marijuana is still defined as a dangerous drug. So people who 
aren't acting under the provisions of the medical marijuana law - or 
inadvertently let medical cards expire - definitely have a problem.

"Clearly, if you're not in compliance with the Medical Marijuana Act, 
you've got a dangerous drug situation on your hands," Nugent said.


The ambiguity in the law led Nugent to recommend OPG create a map so 
people applying for permits would know if they're inside the school 
zone. Barton said OPG misinterpreted those 30 areas as places where 
operations are prohibited.

None of the denials went out the door, though, and now those 
applicants will get a green light assuming they meet other 
conditions: "The few permits that were held will be processed," Barton said.

The situation appears to affect only a small portion of people in the 
medical marijuana field. Missoula County has some 565 registered 
caregivers. The city has had fewer than 50 applications for business 
licenses related to medical marijuana.

Barton said OPG had been holding on to roughly five applications for 
"home occupation" permits, and of those, two or three fell into the 
school buffer zones.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom