by Dennis Dalman
At a public hearing about a cannabis (marijuana) ordinance, the Sartell City Council members found themselves at a loss about what should or should not be included in such an ordinance.
There were no speakers from the public at the meeting.
The use of cannabis for smoking became legal throughout Minnesota on Aug. 1. Earlier, the use of TCH (a cannabis derivative) was legalized. Both forms of cannabis, however, come with some strict restrictions.
Council members acknowledged there are more questions than answers as to what should be in a cannabis ordinance:
Should beverages containing TCH be allowed in businesses? Sartell’s TCH ordinance, approved some months ago, does not allow for such beverages.
How can the city be sure the use of cannabis is not allowed near children in bars/restaurants?
What precisely are other area cities putting into their cannabis ordinances?
Should Sartell follow state guidelines or make guidelines of its own?
Police Chief Brandon Silgjord told the council the state’s rules on cannabis are, at this point, rather convoluted and complicated, and the state has yet to give advice on how to enforce rules and restrictions.
“Convoluted would be an understatement,” said Sartell City Administrator Anna Gruber. “It’s a very confusing time for businesses and the city.”
The council did agree strongly that smoking cannabis should not be allowed in any public spaces.
Several council members said the city should not pass an ordinance so restrictive that it would scare away businesses who would set up shop in other adjacent cities.
Council member Tim Elness emphasized that bars/restaurants must make sure before serving alcoholic beverages, they first ask for identification. The legal limit for cannabis is age 21, as it is for alcohol consumption. That I.D. process should assure residents that nobody under age will be sold cannabis, Elness suggested.
One thing the council did agree to wholeheartedly – a suggestion by Mayor Ryan Fitzthum to forbid the smoking of marijuana in public spaces, that should include a ban on planting marijuana plants in the city’s two community gardens used by some residents.
The council voted to add Fitzthum’s suggestion to the Cannabis Interim Ordinance they approved. They also instructed city staff to do further research on how to draft a strong ordinance to be based on research, state guidance and on what kinds of ordinances other cities are approving.