Marijuana discussion dies at city council meeting
July 20, 2022
A motion to allow residents of Three Forks to vote on whether to allow certain marijuana businesses within city limits died at the Three Forks City Council on July 12.
Councilwoman Nancy Todd motioned to draft the language on the ballot and Councilman Steve Dahl seconded the motion. The motion died with four council members–Gene Townsend, George Chancellor, Debra Mickelberry and Brooke McLees–voting against it. Todd and Dahl voted in favor of adding the language to the ballot.
Had the motion passed, the city council would have passed a resolution based on one passed by the Deer Lodge City Council on March 21.
Todd prompted the discussion among the council arguing that the decision to allow the individual marijuana business types–marijuana cultivators, marijuana product manufacturers, medical marijuana dispensaries, adult-use marijuana dispensaries, marijuana testing laboratories, marijuana transporter facilities and combined-use marijuana businesses–to operate within city limits belonged to the residents, not the council. Combined-use marijuana licenses apply to businesses combining any of the other marijuana business categories.
Todd faced opposition from her fellow council members who reasoned that the cost of drafting such language on the ballot was expensive and that as council members they had been charged with the town's decision making authority.
"If you don't want to make the decisions, then why are you here?" questioned Townsend.
Three Forks City Treasurer Kelly Smith estimated the cost of adding the questions to the November ballot at $2,000 to $3,000 in legal review and other other processes, explaining that, "since there hasn't been a lot of public outcry, it's a lot of money to spend for a ballot."
Three Forks City Clerk Crystal Turner explained that including the question on the ballot seemed unnecessary since all business applications would go through the planning and zoning board and the city council for approval. "The public has the opportunity to come in and weigh in on every single one," Turner told the council, adding that if everyone in town rallies against a specific business, the council can require the business to meet certain conditions, such as hours of operation.
During the portion of public comment, Three Forks resident Kathy White asked how the public should contribute to controlling the approval of such businesses. "If we're not going to put it on the ballot, what's the best way for a citizen to help in controlling what that looks like in our community?" she asked. White was informed that protests or suggestions could be submitted in writing prior to the Planning and Zoning Board or city council meeting in addition to sharing comments during the meetings.
Townsend said that if enough members of the public attend a meeting and speak in opposition, it would "weigh heavily on my vote."
Although Three Forks residents have shown little opposition against marijuana businesses, Todd voiced that she would rather let the citizens decide to approve or deny the individual business types to prevent the council from receiving backlash when approving businesses later on.
Several meeting attendants argued that the community showed significant support for taxing the sale of adult-use marijuana and has not spoken out against marijuana sales. "If everybody in town's against it, where have they been?" questioned Turner.