The Glasgow City Council on Tuesday night passed an emergency ordinance declaring the sale and public use of medical marijuana to be a nuisance. The measure was effective immediately.
Violation of the ordinance is a misdemeanor punishable with a minimum fine of $100.
The town of Nashua will have the first reading of a similar ordinance on Sept. 13, with a second reading to follow before it becomes effective.
Both towns are acting to prevent the establishment of medical marijuana businesses within their corporate limits following the Aug. 12 moratorium on marijuana businesses in Valley County. The Fort Peck Town Council is also considering restrictions.
The county commissioners' one-year freeze on new businesses and new patients for existing caregivers applies everywhere in the county except the four incorporated communities of Glasgow, Nashua, Fort Peck and Opheim.
Glasgow's ordinance expresses the fear that failing to immediately impose restrictions on medical marijuana would allow the city to become a "haven" for uncontrolled commercial marijuana traffic.
Nashua Mayor Pat Hallett said the town was forced into action after the county's decision.
"Where we sit, it leaves us in a bad spot if we don't do something," Hallett said. "I agreed with what the county did. I didn't have a problem with that. Then we had to do something. We don't want someone starting up a (marijuana) business in town."
Glasgow city attorney Dave Gorton said the city took a different approach from the county in limiting marijuana businesses. The county used zoning to declare its moratorium, which the towns can't do because they don't have development plans and zoning ordinances. Glasgow and Nashua are declaring marijuana a public nuisance.
Hallett said Nashua can't afford a zoning ordinance because it is time-consuming and expensive to establish and they can't afford an inspector to enforce it.
Under the county ordinance, caregivers were required to certify the number of patients registered to them and the number of plants in their possession with the Valley County sanitarian by Aug. 26. Sanitarian Cam Shipp said six caregivers submitted the certifying paperwork to him.
According to somewhat dated information on the website of the Montana Department of Health and Human Services, as of June 30 there were 19 caregivers in Valley County. Shipp said the rest must be in the incorporated towns.
A caregiver or a card-holding patient can legally grow pot in Glasgow, but there is no sale of any kind allowed. The ordinance prohibits store-fronts, home or vehicular operations, itinerant businesses, and Internet or e-commerce businesses engaging in the commerce of medical marijuana.
Public use of marijuana is forbidden, whether by smoking it, eating it or any other means of ingesting it. Medical marijuana may only be used in the patient's or caregiver's home or "any other private place reasonably suited to the administration of medical care." A private business or other entity may provide a place for an employee or person to self-administer medical marijuana, but it must be a private place and must conform to the requirements of the Montana Clean Indoor Air Act.
Marijuana in any form must be shielded from public view in Glasgow, a provision which is not in Nashua's proposed ordinance.
Both ordinances enumerate the failings of Montana's Medical Marijuana Act. It didn't authorize the commercial sale of marijuana. It didn't foresee that registered caregivers would be allowed to "open for-profit, commercial enterprises unfettered from local regulation, taxation, inspection or other normal business oversight."
The ordinances state that the legislature has not addressed issues of local concern: commercial operation, public safety, law enforcement, transportation, cultivation, landlord/tenant issues, public health, adverse effects on minors, indoor air quality and others.
"I was hoping we wouldn't have to do anything," Nashua's Hallett said. "I was hoping the state would take care of it."