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Ellisville looks toward revenue possibilities if medical cannabis is legalized

By: Jessica Meszaros

In response to the possible placement of a handful of measures on the state’s upcoming Nov. 6 general election ballot regarding the legalization of medical cannabis, the Ellisville City Council asked city staff to develop text amendments to consider hydroponic and greenhouse growing applications as well as possible options for retail dispensaries.

The suggestion was brought forward by Councilmember Ken Newhouse [District 2] as a way to bring more revenue into the city after a dip in sales revenue in 2017. Sales tax revenue is Ellisville’s largest income producer.

“I’m not going to take an official position on this, and I don’t want the city to take an official stance on this, but I know we’ve had revenue questions lately, and my question is if a medical cannabis dispensary or a plot for a grower could impact our revenue,” Newhouse said at the council’s Feb. 7 meeting. “It’s certainly an interesting business if it becomes legal statewide.”

The issue potentially could be sent to the city’s Planning & Zoning Commission [P&Z] for the creation of zoning text amendments and possible alteration of existing zoned areas to allow for commercial or agricultural uses. Though no action on that suggestion was taken.

“I think this is a potential source of retail revenue,” Mayor Pro Tem Dan Duffy said.

Areas along Old State Road were specifically pitched as possible locations for greenhouses, due to its zoning within the city’s light manufacturing area. According to Duffy, zoning in the area could be altered to allow certain agricultural uses and other conditional uses. The council also discussed the potential use of smaller areas, such as secured greenhouses with hydroponic growing systems, which used a source of highly oxygenated, nutrient enriched water to aid in crop production.

“I don’t really think people are growing cannabis is large areas,” councilmember Stephen Chismarich [District 1] said at the council’s Feb. 7 work session. “I think it’s grown in smaller, much more controlled environments, hydroponically.”

According to Councilmember Vince McGrath [District 1], the production of medical cannabis is specialized and somewhat difficult.

“It’s not easy to grow, so it’s not just going to be a field where people can throw seeds,” McGrath said.

The city also discussed initiating conversations with local pharmacies should the legislation pass since individuals would need a prescription from a doctor to purchase cannabis. The council also suggested looking at cities where medical marijuana is legal to find examples of how to model potential legislation and zoning.

According to Duffy, no law change will be active in the city until statewide legalization legislation is passed. The state has yet to finalize any 2018 ballot measures regarding medical cannabis, but a few initiative petitions have been approved for circulation.

“I think we’re putting the cart before the horse here,” Ellisville resident Mick Cahill said.

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