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On the ballot: recreational marijuana sales in Great Falls (video)

Recreational Marijuana Sales
Recreational Marijuana Sales
Recreational Marijuana Sales
Posted at 9:03 AM, Oct 25, 2022

On August 2, 2022, the Great Falls City Commission passed Resolution 10471, which refers to Great Falls voters the question of whether or not to allow or prohibit all types of commercial marijuana businesses from operating within the City. The question will be on the General Election ballot for vote on November 8, 2022.

The measure to amend an official Great Falls city code that would not allow for the sale of all types of marijuana distribution within city limits. The will of the voters essentially decides whether or not to allow marijuana within the city of Great Falls, but there’s been some confusion in regard to the language of the measure.

“I think a lot of people are confused by the language. I want to clarify that if you’re voting yes, you are voting to make the amendment to essentially keep marijuana sales prohibited. To vote no, is to not pass the amendment, which essentially is allowing marijuana sales in Great Falls,” says Development Director at Alliance for Youth, Thomas Risberg.

The Yatsko’s own Green Creek Dispensary in Gibson Flats, and have been leading the charge towards legalizing recreational marijuana within city limits. After attempting to open a second location along 10th street, the Yatskos were denied. They were referred to the city code which states “any federally illegal item may not be distributed within Great Falls.”

“State law says we can, and the city can’t trump state law. The city follows city ordinance and they follow state law,” says Dale Yatsko.

This argument led Cascade County District Court Judge, Dave Grubich, to overturn the city’s ruling on the second Green Creek location. Since then, city officials have tinkered with the ordinance code to prevent the location from opening. This could all change if the ballot measure isn’t passed.

“If our industry puts 70, 80, or $100 million into state funding, that’s part of the money that’s funding all projects whether they be schools, highways, sewer projects, roads, anything,” says Yatsko.

“It’s not a clear cut issue of, I want to vote for marijuana sales because it’s great for the tax base,” says Risberg, “I think all voters need to be aware that, at least some of that is going to be out the door through increased medical costs, and increased costs surrounding mental health and suicide.”

Data from Great Falls Public Schools shows frequent marijuana use (20+ times in a month) doubled from 4% to 8% in middle schoolers from 2019-2021, and up from 9% to 23% in high schoolers over the same time frame.

“I think there’s an argument that we’re kind of throwing gas on a fire, that we’re already struggling with increased marijuana use among youth, and now we’re considering something that will make it more accessible,” says Risberg.

Polling data from 2020 showed residents of Great Falls were strongly in favor to legalize recreational marijuana and there is a quiet belief that this trend will continue.