The Kosciusko Board of Aldermen will soon decide on the city’s medical marijuana zoning ordinance.
During the board’s July 19 meeting, board attorney Jason White spoke about the state regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries.
“Jason has been working on this for a while trying to get us a good ordinance in place,” said Mayor Tim Kyle at the meeting. “We’ll try to get together and vote on an ordinance at our next board meeting.”
White said once a city, such as Kosciusko, decides to not opt out of having dispensaries, it is eligible for medical marijuana businesses to operate within the city.
“Then you come under the state guidelines, and there’s not a lot of leeway as to what you can do,” said White. “But even having said that, there are several key components y’all will need to decide so that (Richie Armstrong, the city’s building official) and I can go through the whole zoning book and plug in all the places where medical marijuana facilities can go.”
White said there are several different aspects of the business of medical marijuana to consider, such as cultivation, processing, lab testing, dispensaries, transportation, and disposal of subpar products and byproducts.
“All of those things are points of entry into the business,” said White. “From a private attorney standpoint, I’ve had at least eight, maybe 10, different folks come by the office either wanting to see me as their state representative about the law and have questions or as their lawyer. They’re considering getting into different facets of this business. Some not here locally, they are going into other markets, like transportation. Several are specifically right here for growing, processing, dispensing, and at least two different folks are considering getting into transporting.”
White said that, according to state law, a city cannot be any more restrictive on a dispensary than it would be on a neighborhood pharmacy. There is, however, an exception. A dispensary cannot be located within 1,000 feet of a school, church or day care. Additionally, two dispensaries cannot be located within 1,000 feet of each other.
“Now those neighbors, they themselves can say, ‘I don’t mind the pot shop being within 1,000 feet of me,’ but even then, it can’t go less than 500 feet,” he said.
After looking at several cities including Tupelo, Oxford, Hattiesburg and Philadelphia, White said many have a similar ordinance that states if a dispensary is going to be located in a commercial spot that’s next to residential property, the dispensary’s owner must come before a planning commission to get approved.
“They want to see exactly what they’re going to build, what it’s going to look like and be sure it kind of fits with the neighborhood,” he said.
The city will also need to decide about signage, such as what it will allow a business to put on its sign. White said some cities are restricting the use of marijuana leaves or a joint that is being smoked on signs.
In other business, the board:
— Approved the Little Whippets football parade at 9 a.m. on Aug. 13. The parade will start in the Renasant Bank parking lot. The parade was canceled last year because of COVID.
— Approved a request by Contrilla and James Bays to set up their Korean stir fry food truck, Gogi, in the Renasant Bank parking lot on Wednesdays.
— Heard a presentation by Pam Thornton Brown of the Poor People’s Campaign. She requested that the board terminate Kosciusko police officer Braxton Goza following a May incident in Jason Niles Park when the officer violated departmental policies.
The officer was suspended without pay for five days, sent to de-escalating training and is on a six-month probation.
“If he does anything out of line of what he should be doing as a police officer, he will be terminated,” said Kyle. “The board has given him an opportunity, and we’ve said this from the get-go: what he did, we’ve never supported him in that.”
Officers responded to a complaint of loud music in the park on the night of May 20, and the incident involved a group of teenagers and adults. Goza used a red-beam pointer on his taser to identify a person among the group. It was later discovered that he did not have his body camera turned on, so there was no footage of the confrontation.
“He broke the protocol of the policy, and that’s why he was punished,” said Kyle
Kyle made a motion to further discuss the request in an executive session as a personnel matter, which was approved by the board.
Before the meeting started, public hearings were held for properties owned by Evan Howard Ashford and Larry Olive. A motion was made and approved to clean up the Ashford property at 201 Atkinson St. After Olive spoke to board for about 33 minutes, the board approved a motion for Olive to come up with a plan on how to rehab his property at 320 S. Huntington St. and present it to the board in 30 days.