Kalispell Finalizes Ordinance to Restrict Marijuana to Industrial Zones

Members of the public and some councilors argued the ordinance is too restrictive for business owners

By Maggie Dresser
Jars of assorted strains of marijuana flowers on display at Tamarack Dispensary, a grower and purveyor of medical cannabis in Kalispell on May 14, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

The Kalispell City Council voted to restrict marijuana dispensaries, cultivation and manufacturing to industrial zones after a second reading of the ordinance at the Oct. 18 council meeting, setting the city’s framework for facilities once operations can begin on Jan. 1, 2022.

While marijuana operations are permitted in the city, they will be limited to industrial zones, which include Glacier Rail Park, areas near the city airport and Old School Station in south Kalispell.

Councilors Sid Daoud, Ryan Hunter and Kyle Waterman opposed the ordinance, arguing it was too restrictive for business owners.

Prior to a council meeting on Oct. 4, an original proposed ordinance would have allowed dispensaries, which are considered retail, in certain business zones. However, in a 4-3 vote the council amended it to be restricted to industrial zones after it was motioned by Mayor Mark Johnson.

Councilors approved the amended ordinance after the second reading.

Johnson argued that since the state did not have all its rules set for recreational marijuana sales, he wanted to wait until there was clearer guidance from the Montana Department of Revenue.

“The biggest problem I have is the fact that we have this timeline pushed by state law that’s effective by January 1,” Johnson said. “At this point in time we are still waiting for the rules by the state.”

But Daoud viewed the restriction as away to zone the marijuana industry out of the city.

“In this case, the reality is the only place that’s going to be viable is Old School Station,” Daoud said.

Four individuals, two who were dispensary owners, one brewery owner and an acupuncturist, spoke during public comment in opposition to the ordinance as it was written. Some suggested capping the number of dispensaries but still allowing them in business zones.

“Today we sit at a crossroads where a new license group voted into existence is being introduced to our economy and at this very moment we are considering passing an ordinance to ban them from operating,” Bias Brewing owner Gabe Mariman said. “In our historic downtown economy, I take issue with that. We need retail licenses downtown to create diversity of businesses and grow our economic ecosystem … We don’t want a pot shop on every corner, but we know there is value in having retail recreational marijuana licenses downtown.”

Mayor Johnson expressed his frustration with the Montana Department of Revenue, which has not finalized licensing rules for recreational marijuana, and said he would consider amending the current zoning down the road.

“As we look at this, my approach is I’d rather take this slow and look at a future amending of the zoning,” Johnson said.

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