Guest Commentary: Rejecting Marijuana Production Facility Could Expose City To Lawsuit

The Ste. Genevieve Board of Aldermen later this year will vote on a special use permit for a medical marijuana production facility in the old Sabreliner building. But what they are really voting on is whether they should approve special use permits only when they approve of the product being sold. That’s a dangerous proposition, subjects the city to possible legal challenge and is a slap in the face of voters.

The Ste. Genevieve Herald article of September 11 said the public opinion at the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on September 5 regarding the facility was “all negative.” That statement is wrong.

We’ve seen Sabreliner, BiltBest, Miss Elaine’s and other businesses shut their doors. A number of citizens said they want the facility because they want jobs and because they approve of medical marijuana.

The Herald article mentions concern about potential odor from the facility. While this concern was raised, and addressed by the city’s community development administrator, the real objection is with medical marijuana. Some citizens at the meeting said that marijuana was a gateway drug, we were on a slippery slope to legalizing recreational use, and we couldn’t justify the DARE program to children if we had a medical marijuana facility in town.

If the Board of Aldermen rejects the special use permit, it will be because they don’t like medical marijuana. This would be a dangerous precedent. Are we going to reject a food processing plant or firearms manufacturer because of concerns about childhood obesity or mass shootings? And what does such a vote tell potential investors in Ste. Genevieve about our business climate?

It also opens the city to a potentially costly and unwinnable legal challenge. The city’s decision has to be based on substantial and competent evidence based on the whole record. The city has adopted the most stringent rules allowed in Missouri regarding distance of a medical marijuana production facility from schools, day-care centers, churches, residentially-zoned areas and public parks. The proposed facility jumps through all the hoops. So how can we claim rejection would be based on substantial and competent evidence?

But the biggest problem with rejection by the board is it would be a rejection of democracy. The people of Missouri and Ste. Genevieve County overwhelmingly approved amending the state constitution to allow medical marijuana in November of 2018 (65.3 percent to 34.7 percent statewide, 60.3 percent to 39.7 percent in our county). Whether they disagree with the will of the voters, the board should follow their will and approve the special use permit.

I am a member of the city Planning and Zoning Commission. This letter is my opinion and does not necessarily represent the opinion of any other member of the board.

[Attorney Carl D. Kinsky is formerly the county’s prosecuting attorney and is a member of the county health board in addition to the Planning and Zoning Commission.]

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