Medical marijuana growers looking to locate in the city of Union could have another option to locate their operations.

Just two weeks after the city’s board of aldermen approved potential zoning districts for medical marijuana industries, the Union Planning and Zoning Commission recommended a change to allow more cultivation operations.

The plan board backed a request to allow medical marijuana cultivation in the light industrial district with a conditional permit. The plan board’s recommendation will be passed along to the board of aldermen who will then have a public hearing to decide if the city’s zoning code should be amended.

The city has been preparing for the legalization of medical marijuana for several months now. The plan board reviewed proposals for proper zoning districts for cultivation operations, infusion operations, dispensaries and testing facilities.

For cultivation, where the marijuana is grown, the city considered it an agricultural activity and said it could be allowed in the nonurban (NU) zoning district with a conditional use permit (CUP).

Rost, who admitted to not being an expert of marijuana, said he was informed after the zoning district was approved that NU might be the best fit. Rost said he was told that marijuana isn’t really grown anymore in fields, but instead in controlled warehouse facilities.

Because of this information, Rost said it might make sense for the city to allow medical marijuana in the light industrial (I-1) zoning district with a CUP. He said a CUP was important because it allows the city some measure of control.

Rost said when researching medical marijuana zoning, he found the CUPs allow the city to have more say and can be used to tackle any problems with the operation.

The plan board agreed with Rost’s suggestion and backed the change. There were no objections to the plan.

Locating marijuana operations in an industrial area may be tough with restrictions already on the books. Union approved a 1,000 foot buffer between marijuana industries and schools and churches.

The Union R-XI School District recently purchased a building at 21 Progress Parkway and plans to relocate its administrative staff to the new facility for the 2019-20 school year. Construction also has begun on a welding school off Progress Parkway. 

Current Zoning

After medicinal marijuana was legalized in November 2018 through a constitutional amendment approved by voters, the city began looking to see where operations would fit.

Rost said the plan is to have the legalization implemented by the end of 2019.

According to the amendment, Rost said the city can’t place any extra burdensome restrictions on operations relating to medical marijuana.

Cultivation is already approved for NU with a CUP. If aldermen approve, it could be allowed in the industrial areas with a CUP.

The marijuana-infused product facilities, places where the grown product is transferred and put in various other products, are being considered manufacturing by the city. The plan board suggested this operation should be allowed in the light industrial (I-1) zoning district with a CUP. The CUP could be used to restrict odor and hours.

For dispensaries, the city wants to treat them like pharmacies. Dispensaries are where the marijuana is sold to consumers who have state-approved medical cards.

The process will already be highly regulated by the state and is very secure, Rost said. The city is proposing dispensaries be allowed in the highway business district (B-2) without a CUP and in the downtown business district (B-1) with a CUP.

Rost told aldermen the B-1 has fewer restrictions on setbacks. However, it is unlikely a dispensary could ever open downtown because there’s no area in the district that is not close to a school or church.

The final proposed zoning district is the medical testing facilities. The plan board proposed I-1 with a conditional use permit. Rost pointed out the I-1 district is where the city has other labs.