Rolla City Council discusses decriminalization and facility regulation

By Brandon Dunn

Monday evening, Rolla City Council members set out to discuss regulations for medical marijuana facilities, and the possibility of decriminalization of marijuana possession in city limits.

Jack Cardetti, spokesperson for MoCannTrade and for New Approach Missouri, walked the council through a PowerPoint presentation about Amendment 2 and how it impacts the city.

Cardetti is originally from St. James, just a few miles from Rolla.

Cardetti explained the basics of Amendment 2, advising that while cities are barred from prohibiting medical marijuana use and medical marijuana facilities from operating within city limits, cities are still able to issue zoning restrictions and ordinances.

Cardetti continued, explaining that cities around the state have made exceptions to the 1000 foot buffer zone designed to restrict medical marijuana facilities from operating near churches, schools, and daycare facilities. Cardetti closed his presentation by asking council members to consider that marijuana dispensaries are a non traditional business, allowing only consumers with a state issued medical marijuana card to enter, and fielding questions from the council.

City Administrator John Butz submitted proposed language for an ordinance guiding local regulations. The submitted draft outlines a 300-foot barrier barring medical marijuana dispensaries around churches, schools, and daycares. The proposal also limits operating hours to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, with closing extended until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, creates a minimum distance of 500 feet between dispensaries except if medical marijuana sales represent less than five percent of a pharmacy’s dollar volume, and outlines regulations as to cultivation and marijuana infusion facilities.

Butz also provided a map of downtown Rolla, showing what a 300 foot buffer zone would look like. Butz explained that half of Pine Street would be open to a dispensary facility, while half would be prohibited from any cannabis business.

Butz said that the planning and zoning commission group must make a recommendation of how to regulate dispensaries, after which a formal ordinance would be drafted, with public hearings to be scheduled before approval.

Also on Monday, Councilman Daniel Jones put forward a motion to decriminalize marijuana possession for up to 35 grams in city limits.

Jones read from a prepared statement before a presentation from Dan Viets, saying, “I know, as a recreational pot smoker, that arrest and detainment of cannabis users is an unjust, archaic and flat out dangerous way to handle cannabis possession.”

“I know this because I was jailed for 356 days with a $300,000 bond over my head for a plant. That was a larger bond than the child molesters I shared my cell with. That’s a broken system, Rolla, I intend to help right that ship,” Jones continued.


Jones introduced Dan Viets, chair of Missouri Cannabis Industry Association, Executive Director or Missouri NORML, and President of New Approach Missouri.

Viets’ presentation primarily targeted his role in Columbia’s decriminalization effort in 2004.

Viets discussed Columbia’s policies explaining that those found in possession of up to 35 grams of marijuana are issued citations rather than being arrested. Litigation is handled by the municipal court, so individuals receiving citations do not have criminal records.

Viets advised that county prosecutors in the jurisdictions around St. Louis, Columbia, and Kansas City (the three existing cities with decriminalization of marijuana possession already on the books) have all agreed to cooperate with decriminalization efforts and not prosecute small possession cases.

“All of the things we do, all the prosecutions we engage in and tax money we spend, it doesn’t reduce marijuana use. So what possible good does it do? I submit nothing,” Viets concluded.

After Viets’ presentation, Rolla City Counselor Lance Thurman inquired as to whether or not Phelps County Prosecuting Attorney Brendon Fox had been consulted prior to the council meeting.

“You can pass the ordinance, but if the officers send it over, you have the choice to either fire them or not for insubordination, if you want to try it, but that doesn’t prevent the prosecutor from filing the charge once he receives the report,” Thurman said.

The council’s opposing views brought about heated moments of debate with Jones and council member Jimmy Dale Williams verbally sparring and raising their voices. Mayor Louis Magdits IV closed debate asking for the council to vote on whether or not to devote any paid time to completing a legal review of decriminalization.

The council voted 10-2 in support of completing a legal review with Williams and council member John Meusch the only opposition.

“Any decision by Rolla City Council regarding an ordinance to decriminalize marijuana has no impact on my office. The Phelps County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office prosecutes cases referred to us under violations of state law, so an ordinance violation would be outside our jurisdiction. As to my position on the ordinance, I am not a legislator nor was I elected to make laws. Any opinions would invade the purview of the legislature, and by extension, the voters who elect them.”

Phelps County Prosecuting Attorney Brendon Fox to Phelps County Focus