Texarkana adopts busi­ness-li­cens­ing sys­tem for pot

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - VOICES - KARL RICHTER

TEXARKANA — Lead­ers in Texarkana set the cost of do­ing med­i­cal-mar­i­juana busi­ness in the city, de­spite some ob­jec­tion that of­fi­cials are mov­ing too fast.

In a move City Man­ager Kenny Haskin said would lead the way for the rest of Arkansas, the Texarkana Board of Di­rec­tors voted unan­i­mously Mon­day to adopt a busi­ness-li­cens­ing struc­ture for med­i­cal cannabis cul­ti­va­tion cen­ters, where the plant will be grown, and dis­pen­saries, where it will be sold.

Cul­ti­va­tion cen­ters will pay the city an ini­tial busi­ness li­cense fee of $50,000 and there­after $50,000 a year for re­newal. Med­i­cal-mar­i­juana dis­pen­saries will pay $7,500 for an ini­tial li­cense and $11,250 for re­newal.

An an­nual sur­charge equal to 25 per­cent of a dis­pen­sary’s in­ven­tory had been in­cluded in a pre­vi­ous ver­sion of the or­di­nance, but it was dropped be­fore the vote to make the city more com­pet­i­tive in at­tract­ing dis­pen­saries, Haskin said.

The board fast-tracked the mea­sure, read­ing it all three of the re­quired times and vot­ing on it dur­ing the same meet­ing. Board mem­bers also voted to en­act an emer­gency clause mak­ing the or­di­nance ef­fec­tive im­me­di­ately.

The speed was nec­es­sary to give po­ten­tial mar­i­juana busi­ness own­ers cer­tainty about what they can ex­pect in Texarkana as they pro­ceed with the state li­cense ap­pli­ca­tion process now un­der way, Haskin said. The vote had been tabled at the board’s July 5 meet­ing be­cause Haskin was ab­sent and, there­fore, un­able to an­swer any ques­tions about the or­di­nance.

“One of the con­cerns that we have with de­lay­ing again, that puts a tremen­dous amount of pres­sure on the in­vestors and folks who are in busi­ness and other cities that are look­ing to Texarkana for lead­er­ship on this is­sue.

“With all due re­spect, I clearly un­der­stand some of the op­po­si­tion, but at the same time we have an obli­ga­tion as a board, as a city, as a staff to make sure that we pro­vide guid­ance to those who are truly in­ter­ested in open­ing a busi­ness in Texarkana,” Haskin said.

Both Tracy Har­ris, pas­tor of Har­vest In­ter­na­tional Min­istries, and Richard Wagnon, a res­i­dent, spoke in fa­vor of putting the or­di­nance through the nor­mal pro­ce­dure of read­ing and dis­cussing it at three dis­crete, con­sec­u­tive meet­ings be­fore a vote.

“I would ask you at the very min­i­mum tap the brakes on this, have at least three read­ings, give us an op­por­tu­nity to come with statis­tics,” said Har­ris, who ar­gued that med­i­cal-mar­i­juana busi­nesses would have a neg­a­tive ef­fect on Texarkana and dam­age the city’s rep­u­ta­tion.

Mayor Ruth Pen­ney-Bell and a city di­rec­tor, Travis Odom, said they were against le­gal­iz­ing med­i­cal mar­i­juana gen­er­ally but rec­og­nized the need for the city to be ready now that vot­ers statewide have de­cided to al­low it.

“We can­not do one thing about it. We can just be pre­pared,” Pen­ney-Bell said.

The board also fast-tracked and ap­proved changes to the city zon­ing or­di­nance re­gard­ing med­i­cal-mar­i­juana busi­nesses, adding rel­e­vant def­i­ni­tions, adopt­ing state re­stric­tions on the busi­nesses’ sig­nage and defin­ing which zones they may op­er­ate in.

State law re­quires cul­ti­va­tion cen­ters and dis­pen­saries to be al­lowed in what­ever zones re­tail phar­ma­cies are lo­cated. The new lo­cal or­di­nance re­moves phar­ma­cies from O-1, or of­fice quiet, zones so mar­i­juana busi­nesses may not op­er­ate there. Of­fice quiet zones al­low cer­tain busi­nesses to lo­cate among homes in res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hoods.

Lo­cal zon­ing will now al­low land use of cul­ti­va­tion cen­ters and dis­pen­saries in all com­mer­cial and in­dus­trial zones ex­cept those des­ig­nated O-1 and W-1. State reg­u­la­tions dic­tate that cul­ti­va­tion cen­ters must be 3,000 feet and dis­pen­saries 1,500 feet from any church, school or day­care.

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