GREAT FALLS — On June 27th, a couple filed a lawsuit against the City of Great Falls, challenging the city's ban on adult use marijuana dispensaries within city limits. Janelle and Dale Yatsko have operated outside city limits in the county for 14 years and want to move into town.
According to House Bill 701, counties and cities can further regulate marijuana sales. However, the ban Great Falls imposed on sales within city limits is in violation of state law as cities and counties can only ban sales through a referendum vote, which did not occur in either Great Falls or Cascade County.
The city commission voted 4 to 1 to block the Yatsko’s in April, who are continuing to push the city, claiming it is against state law to prevent them from having one within city limits. Their attorney, Raph Graybill, says state law allows the outskirts to operate in Great Falls unless its citizens decide against it with a referendum vote.
“The legislature met and they decided that if you're in a county that voted for the initiative, that they're legal still and the Yatsko’s ultimately look at it and said the state law has to mean something. The Yatsko’s want to follow the law. They've run this business for 14 years as a family business. They've always been licensed. They have all the state permits that are required. All they want out of this is that state law means what it says.”
We also reached out to city attorney Jeff Hindoien for comment, but he was unavailable.
However, he had this to say in the special meeting back in April.
“The bottom line here is that we're at the staff level, still operating under the language that the commission adopted to prohibit medical marijuana operations in the city of Great Falls. Since that time, I-190 and House Bill 701 were passed to authorize adult use marijuana. From the staff perspective, we have viewed the already existing ordinance is still precluding that. Where we sit relative to the other cities, we are sort of in our own space as far as the Big Seven are concerned.”
The Yatskos argue that because Cascade County is a “green” jurisdiction, they should be able to move their second location within the city limits of Great Falls. The suit asks for preliminary and permanent injunction, preventing the city from enforcing the ban on marijuana sales within city limits.
Graybill added he expects a hearing to be set within the next few weeks.
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