Horn Lake

Horn Lake Board of Alderman have directed the city planner to disregard the planning commission’s recommendations on where medical marijuana dispensaries would be allowed and follow the ones presented by a special committee.

The city opted out of the Mississippi medical marijuana law last April and formed a subcommittee made up of Aldermen Dave Young, Tommy Bledsoe, and Michael Guice to study the issue in more depth and allow the city to opt-in later.

The committee came up with a set of guidelines that would prohibit any growing, transportation, or research operations from setting up shop in Horn Lake, but will allow dispensaries as long as they are not within 1700 feet of a church, school, daycare, or any other permitted dispensary. 

Dispensaries would be limited to 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and would be required to close on holidays. Businesses would be allowed to sell medical cannabis products only and not marijuana related paraphernalia.

Cannabis businesses would also be required to have bars on the front windows, a monitored 24 hour security alarm, a bonded and insured security guard on the premises, video surveillance outside and inside, and an exhaust system to minimize any offensive smells from escaping and being a nuisance within a 2,500 square foot radius.

The committee proposed allowing dispensaries in C-4 zoning east of Highway 301, north of Nail Road  West except south of Nail Road West east of Highway 51 and west of Interstate 55 and north of Goodman Road.

But when the proposal was presented to the board by the planning director, the planning commission recommended the zoning buffers be reduced to 1,000 from a church or daycare and 1,500 feet from another dispensary which opened up additional areas of the city to possible additional dispensaries to open in areas zoned for office and C1, C2, C3 and C4. They also recommended no bars be allowed on the front windows because it conflicted with the city’s design standards.

Committee members were taken aback by the changes and told Planning Director Chad Bahr that it wasn’t his job to make the law.

“Y’all don’t legislate,” Young said. “We do. It’s not the job of the planning commission to change the committee’s decision.”

Bah said it was a misunderstanding in communications.

“I guess I must have misunderstood,” Bahr said.

Ward 1 Alderman Michael Guice said the committee set the regulations to restrict the number of locations where dispensaries could open to the main corridors of Goodman Road, Hwy. 51 and the Interstate, and not to have them further down Nail Road.

The board did carve out an exception for Dancy Boulevard, which runs behind Goodman Road.

“The main idea is to keep us from having a whole Goodman Road or Hwy 51 full of marijuana dispensaries like casinos on the Las Vegas strip,” Guice said. “We don’t want that.”

Guise said that the committee felt that the 1,700 foot distance requirement  would protect the city from having two or three dispensaries on every block.

“The 1,700 feet between them is something the committee wanted to keep to limit the number of them while still giving the option for a few of them or for people who need to come to Horn Lake to purchase it.”

Young said he has no problem with allowing medical marijuana dispensaries to operate in Horn Lake for people who need the product, however, he doesn’t want to see 15 or 20 of them opening in the city.

“I’m only agreeing to four or five,” Young said. “All these other zones don’t need to be there. The 1,700 feet will restrict how many we have in Horn Lake. We don’t need more than three or four. We don’t need 10 or 15 of these stretched across the city.”

Ward 3 Alderman Jackie Bostick said it is important that the city get  the regulations right the first time. 

“I want to be sure we do it all correct on the front end,” Bostick said. “I know it is needed. I know we need to do this. But we have  to make sure we get it right the first time. If we don’t get it right the first time then we are going to be battling this the next Lord knows how long.”

Ward 6 Alderman Robby Dupree said while he understands there is a need to allow medical marijuana, pointed out that it may bring some unintended consequences. He said studies have shown that auto accidents increased 18 percent in cities that have marijuana, and questioned whether the police will have enough officers to respond to complaints about people smoking marijuana in public.

“So we have to look at the repercussions of what this is going to do,” Dupree said. “I felt genuine sympathy for the citizen who told the board his daughter is on oils and that it helps her condition. That is the point where I understood we need it. But do we need every Joe Blow who smokes it going to get a medical marijuana card and saying  ‘oh, I can smoke it.’ We are going to have calls up the ying yang saying they’re smoking marijuana in their car port, or they are smoking it at the store just like I smelled it earlier at the gas station. We don’t have enough police coverage now. If it’s oil or liquid form, that’s fine. But when it is going to impose a problem on the innocent citizens out here, I do have a problem.”

Ward 1 Alderman Tommy Bledsoe agreed that there will be some unintended problems that come with medical marijuana, but added that there is a legitimate need for medical marijuana.

“Much as I hate to say it, I’m for medical marijuana. Not marijuana,” Bledso said. “I’m for some relief for people who need it and I’m not going to punish them because some yahoos will use the law in their favor.”

Residents who spoke during the public comment period expressed support for medical marijuana and the hope that the city would come up with an ordinance that will allow some dispensaries to open.

“I really believe we need medical marijuana for the people who need it,” said Francis J. Miller. “Yes, it is going to open up a nightmare. We need to control that nightmare. But the need is greater than the nightmare. So we’ve got to handle the nightmare. We have a good enough police department that can handle it if it gets out of control.”

Kirby Carter pointed out that there is a pediatric therapy center on Dancy Blvd. where children are present and asked whether the 1,700 foot buffer would apply there.

“I’m just curious since children will be there all day long from age birth to 18,” Carter said. 

Robert Randall of Coldwater, who is interested in opening a dispensary on Dancy Blvd., said Mississippi did an excellent job with the medical cannabis law compared to other states, and asked if Horn Lake’s guidelines will allow for edible marijuana to be sold.

“I think it is a safe alternative,” Randall said. “I think a lot of patients are more inclined to go that route when it is necessary.”

Ward 5 Alderman LaShonda Johnson thanked the committee for their hard work in coming up with the recommendations, but disagreed with some of her colleagues about the fallout. She said she does not believe dispensaries will bring chaos and disorder to Horn Lake.

“I see hope,” Johnson said.

Johnson said she has two daughters who have chronic illnesses which traditional medicine has not been able to fix, and that medical marijuana might be an option for people with similar situations.

“For the last 20 years or more we have been to doctors and hospitals without an answer,” Johnson said. “So this could be an answer. This could be some hope for relief for my daughters. We knew coming out of the gate that this is something new for us. But I think our citizens deserve a shot at us trying.”

The board took no action but instructed City Attorney Billy Campbell and Bahr to come back with an ordinance that reflects the will of the subcommittee for a vote.

“It will be what the committee found,” Young said. “That will be the motion.”


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