El Reno medical marijuana dispensary denied permit due to nearby church

EL RENO, Okla. - An El Reno man was in the process of opening a medical marijuana dispensary - until the city stepped in.

“It has all the security cameras in place. We're ready to go,” said J.P. King, co-owner of The Green Buffalo Cannabis Company.

King has deep roots in El Reno. That's why he decided it was the place he wanted to open the medical marijuana dispensary.

“We went to the city for our permit, knowing that we're in full compliance with state law, and the city denied us based on our proximity to a church,” he said.

King already has a license from the state and thought getting a permit would be a breeze.

“We were crushed. We were absolutely crushed. We love this city, and we love the people in this city. We chose this city because this is our home,” he said.

When asked why the city denied King' s permit, the city sent us this response:

“The City of El Reno adopted Ordinance 9161 in September 2018 establishing the zoning districts and locations marijuana retailers can locate. The proposed location was within 300ft of a church and the ordinance restricts marijuana retailers from locating that close to churches or places of worship.”

But, State Question 788 states “No city or local municipality may unduly change or restrict zoning laws to prevent the opening of a retail marijuana establishment.”

The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority said applicants within 1,000 feet of a school will be denied. But, churches aren't listed as part of the state regulation.

Attorney Brian Ted Jones said, after State Question 788 passed, other cities in the state have implemented ordinances similar to El Reno's, like the City of Yukon, which currently has a lawsuit pending against it.

“788 has language that protects people from exactly this kind of enactment by local governments. The people of Oklahoma voted to give this man this right,” Jones said.

While King doesn't want to have to go the legal route, he's now considering it.

“We hope that the city does what's right. We hope that they drop all non-compliant ordinances,” he said.

King said he does now have a lawyer and they're looking into what his next options are for the dispensary.

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