As Horn Lake continues to determine whether to accept or opt out of Mississippi’s new medical marijuana law, city planning director Chad Bahr warned the city to consider potential “adverse externalities” if they decide to allow marijuana cultivation in the city.
Bahr and his wife decided not to buy a home on the south side of Chino Valley, Arizona, where he previously worked as a county planner, because the smell from an indoor marijuana-growing facility was “like a giant skunk.”
“We decided not to because on certain days when the wind was just blowing, it was very special and not very nice,” Bahar said.
Cities in Mississippi have until May 2 to choose or repeal the law.
Bahr shared some notes about the new law with the LAC and noted other issues they should consider from a planning perspective that might affect Horn Lake if they approve the law.
“This is just something I was aware of in another part of the county I was working in where medical marijuana was legalized,” Bahr said.
Bahr said there are three planning aspects to the new medical marijuana law: cultivation, processing, and dispensaries.
Compare medical marijuana growing sites to operations of a large hog farm in his native Iowa, and Cattle Foods in Dalhart, Texas, a community in Texas.
Both of these facilities, such as medical marijuana cultivation, come with “negative externalities” from a planning perspective, Bahr said.
“The farming facilities produce a smell, those negative externalities,” Bahr said. It’s very powerful, and it’s totally special. Each of these activities eliminates the stench, but you might not think about it when you think going forward in terms of what the city’s response to the act passed should be, and that’s the agricultural aspect of the three aspects of land use medicinally marijuana.”
Bahr summarized some of the main points of the law:
• A processor is defined as an attachment that weighs more than 3000 pounds, while a microprocessor is less than 3000 pounds.
• Dispensaries must be at least 1,500 feet away from each other.
• No dispensary will be able to locate a location within 1,000 feet of a school, church or nursery, but this distance can be reduced to 500 feet with the approval of that affected property.
• Dispensaries and treatments are allowed in designated commercial areas.
• Farming facilities are only allowed in agricultural or industrial areas.
“The bill talks about aspects of zoning,” Behr said.
Bahr al-Madina recommended treating dispensaries like a pharmacy or doctor’s office for zoning purposes.
“Personally, if the city wanted to go that route with the dispensary, I would try to treat it basically like what the bill was created for. The law was set up as a medical cannabis law,” Bahr said. The idea is to medically distribute it to people. If we have a pharmacy or we have a doctor, if we allow it, I recommend treating her in the same way because they give her the same treatment. It would be hard to argue against that because we deal with it in a similar way.”
Mayor Allen Latimer thanked Bahr for pointing out odor concerns associated with farming facilities, and asked how the medical marijuana law might affect AR or agricultural residential areas in the city.
“If you were to look into that because the board is going to have to make a decision very soon on whether they want to sign up or opt out,” Latimer said.
Bahr said he will have to do more research.
“I have to look at the usage schemes and see if we will have to do something in the agricultural residential areas because we have a name for agriculture,” Bahr said. “I think[AR]is one of those areas that you see on the outskirts of town where it’s rural, but it has a residential component to it.”
Ward 4 Alderman Dave Young likened the smell of marijuana cultivation to another foul odor that locals already know.
“Roughly here we associate this with the smell of a wood pulp mill,” Young said. “That’s raw.”
“They’re terrible,” Latimer agreed.
Bahr said he reached out to his former employer in Chino Valley to gain more insight into the various aspects of medicinal marijuana land use.
“Her email was ‘Uh,’” Bahr said. “That was the end of her email. Sows 24/7, 365 (days a year). And you can smell it all the time in that part of town. It’s something to consider when making your decisions.”
Latimer noted that there are also amendments in both the Mississippi House and Senate to the medical marijuana bill being discussed that further complicate whether to opt in or out.
“We’re kind of dogged where we go further than the way we’re going to go,” Latimer said. “If the board chooses to come out, they can come later. But once you sign up, you become a subscriber.”