GREAT FALLS — Three yays and two nays - that was the outcome during Tuesday's City Commission meeting in favor of allowing marijuana within Great Falls city limits.
The community of Great Falls made their presence known inside the commission chambers, many in opposition of proposed Ordinance 3249.
“Heavy adolescent marijuana users were much more likely than non-users to have interactions with criminal justice systems,” said resident Ben Forsyth.
Another resident followed Forsyth: “The purpose of government is to protect its people. We are not cattle. I don’t like us to be looked at in that regard.”
“The medical patients are the ones I stand here vying for… I won’t stand down for it,” said another resident in favor of the amendment.
The work session had 19 in attendance and four of the five in public comment on marijuana opposed the ordinance.
It was important for Great Falls City Attorney Jeff Hindoien to note that the vote was strictly for zoning.
The city has set aside specific areas of the city where dispensaries can be located. Much of the opposition was worried about locations near neighborhoods and schools, and that by allowing these businesses in the areas it would bring "negative" traffic to those areas.
Commissioner Rick Tryon made a point that no matter what the vote was on Tuesday, that when voters get the chance to cast their ballot on the issue in November, it will give civic leaders a better understanding of what the community really wants.
“The city needs a framework,” said Hindoien.
Casting a ballot in November is the way voices will be heard by elected officials.
For now, the City of Great Falls will continue with the initial proposal and move forward with the zoning ordinance that was proposed. This doesn’t mean it is set in stone as Commissioners McKenney, Wolff, and Kelly brought forth the idea of allowing dispensaries in “industrial” areas. For now, the framework is set and can be reworked moving forward.
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