The Kirkwood City Council has amended the city’s zoning code and ordinances to accommodate the legalization of recreational marijuana.
The amendments were introduced during a public hearing on Thursday, Jan. 19. Jonathan Raiche, Kirkwood’s planning and development services director, recommended that the council use the same regulations that are already in place for medical marijuana.
Under these regulations, recreational marijuana dispensaries are considered as a special use in the B-3 (business) zoning district. Cultivation, infused product manufacturing and testing facilities may be considered as special uses in the I-1 (industrial) district.
Marijuana businesses must be located a minimum of 1,000 feet from a place of worship, school or day care center, and must be at least 500 feet from a marijuana business of the same type.
Kirkwood City Attorney John Hessel explained that while recreational marijuana is now legal in Missouri, cities still have limited opportunities to regulate it.
“Kirkwood has taken the most aggressive approach toward regulation,” he said. “We are also recommending that any applicant go through the special use permit, so planning and zoning and the city council have the opportunity to address whatever unique circumstances are associated with that particular type of operation.”
In addition to regulation, the council also approved changes addressing marijuana-related offenses for law enforcement. Marijuana users are not entitled to smoke or consume marijuana in public places, nor are they entitled to drive under the influence.
Kirkwood City Council Member Liz Gibbons asked how law enforcement will determine if someone is “intoxicated” with marijuana, as there are no specific devices — such as breathalyzers or blood alcohol content level tests — that would indicate if someone is high.
“Unlike with blood alcohol content, there isn’t a precise level to determine whether you’re under the influence of marijuana,” said Hessel. “So it will have to be based on the same things we do today, like watery or bloodshot eyes, inability to speak clearly, erratic driving or the smell of marijuana.”
Hessel noted that laws will likely need to adapt and change as the reality of recreational marijuana continues to pose new challenges.
The changes passed a first reading on Feb. 2 and a final reading on Feb. 16.
There are currently no marijuana dispensaries or other facilities in the city of Kirkwood.