Oklahoma cities passing zoning laws regulating medical marijuana

YUKON, Okla. - Bobby Smith spent thousands of dollars on architects and engineers figuring out how to convert a building near downtown Yukon into his new medical marijuana dispensary.

It fit the only zoning criteria set out in the new state law that a dispensary can’t be within 1,000 feet of a school.

He thought he was going by the letter of the law until the city of Yukon passed ordinances harsher than the state law.

The city added several other locations including parks, churches and day cares.

“They’re banning it without banning it, and then they’re saying we’re not banning it because all we did was just put these guidelines on there,” Smith said.

El Reno has done the same thing.

“We can’t have the wild wild west out here,” said El Reno Mayor Matt White.

White said they’ve gotten no direction from the state so they’re feeling the pressure to take their own action.

“The city still has our right on zoning laws, and we always have had that. So, it doesn’t exclude marijuana all of a sudden on this one issue,” White said.

Many in the cities have protested the new ordinances, saying they’re basically a way to ban marijuana.

“Oh, it’s absolutely illegal. I mean, all one has to do is read State Question 788. I mean, it specifically outlines in there what cities and municipalities can and cannot do,” said El Reno resident Phillip Church. “There’s no other business that I’m aware of that has restrictions against churches, schools, day cares, Grandma Lily’s house, it’s a little bit ridiculous.”

The Oklahoma Municipal League has been advising cities on this.

“You can’t ban it. I mean, and the law is very clear on that. We don’t have that authority. So, we’re advising them not to do that through zoning purposes,” said Mike Fina, executive director of the Oklahoma Municipal League.

But, Fina also said municipalities have the right to regulate businesses with their zoning plans.

“It’s not even fair for any business to come in and say, well, the voters said it so we’re going to go wherever we want. That’s just not fair to our communities,” Fina said.

Jed Green with New Health Solutions Oklahoma, Inc. said they provided a bill about three weeks ago to the working group on medical marijuana at the state capitol. He said they still want them to call a special session so cities can have more clarity on the issue.

Governor Mary Fallin sent us this statement Monday in response to the story:

“Our state is moving forward in developing a responsible medical marijuana program that complies with existing federal rules and regulations. It’s important for this process to be quick, but it’s crucial that this system be developed correctly. Oklahoma’s medical marijuana program must ensure the health and safety of Oklahomans as well as being fair and balanced for the marijuana industry. The Legislature’s working group on medical marijuana implementation is meeting weekly and is gathering new and helpful information each time it meets. As a representative of the National Conference of State Legislatures told the group last week, ‘No two medical marijuana programs are alike.’ We can’t just cut and paste tidbits from other programs and expect them to work here.”