Kenton County cities mull medical cannabis business zoning Skip to content

Kenton County cities mull medical cannabis business zoning

Zoning rules in each city will affect whether and where medical MJ businesses can operate.

3 min read

Kenton County cities must decide whether medical cannabis businesses can operate in their jurisdiction.

At the April Fort Mitchell city council meeting, Sharmili Reddy, executive director at Kenton County Planning & Development Services, presented the options from a zoning perspective.

In 2023, the Kentucky state legislature passed a bill legalizing medical cannabis. This bill will go into effect in 2025. Local municipalities have until then to pass zoning restrictions on cannabis cultivation, processing, production, and dispensaries, before it goes into the hands of the state.

Planning & Development Services of Kenton County is helping local cities make those decisions by providing all of the necessary information as an authority on zoning.

“Our role is to make sure our communities are informed about the legislation and the upcoming deadlines on that legislation when local governments have to take action,” Reddy said. “[Planning & Development Services of Kenton County is] not taking a position on medical cannabis in general. We are advising, not promoting.”

Dr. Keshar M. Ghimire, a marijuana law expert at the University of Cincinnati, told LINK nky, “Kentucky has passed a pretty comprehensive medical cannabis law. They have a long list of qualifying conditions.”

Meaning it will not be too easy for a person to acquire medical cannabis or for a cannabis business to operate.

“Just about every step of the way, there is oversight,” Reddy said. “On the side of those dispensing and those receiving.”

There are conditions for any medical cannabis user, any cannabis business, and the municipalities those citizens and businesses reside in. Reddy explained the zoning regulations and state-mandated restrictions that impact how and where cannabis businesses could operate within the city.

For example, the current zoning map of Fort Mitchell entirely disallows some cannabis operations.

“Fort Mitchell does not have any industrial zones,” Reddy said. “That leaves them with dispensaries. But when you overlay the 1000-foot buffer requirement, that limits it even further.”

Reddy referred to one of the restrictions built into the state law. The buffer requirement demands a 1000-foot separation between a cannabis business and an “existing school or daycare.”

“This requirement addresses the concern that [cannabis] dispensaries, when nearby, have the potential to influence minors’ attitude and/or access to marijuana,” Ghimire said. “The distance also ensures that whatever criminal and other unwanted activities that may happen near dispensaries don’t affect the school environment.”

So, while there are certain rules that the city has to follow completely, it is up to the individual city or county whether they allow cannabis businesses in their jurisdiction. As Reddy explained to the Fort Mitchell city council, a city basically has three options.

They can opt to allow cannabis business operations in the city according to the state statute. The city can apply its own regulations in addition to the state’s. Planning & Development Services of Kenton County suggested some potential restrictions to consider in an April memo. Those suggestions include limiting the number of cannabis business operations within a zone, establishing on-site parking requirements and establishing specific hours of operation.

Alternatively, a city could decide to prohibit cannabis businesses from operating within city limits. However, this decision doesn’t mean that people in that city could not get medical cannabis.

“Regardless of whether local governments prohibit or allow medical cannabis businesses within jurisdictional boundaries, if there is a medical reason, a person will still have access,” Reddy said. “This decision only has to do with where the businesses can be located.”

Additionally, citizens could organize a petition to overturn this decision. They could also leave it up to the citizens entirely by putting it on the ballot.

Either way, a decision must be made before the end of the year if cities want to exert control over the regulations.

“Cities and counties have to take some action, allowing or prohibiting, before Jan. 1, 2025,” Reddy said. “If the state issues any licenses in the meantime, they will be grandfathered in.”

Conversations about what cities should allow or prohibit are happening all over Northern Kentucky. Fort Mitchell City Council decided to request more information from Planning & Development Services before making a decision.


Written by Kathleen Bryant. Cross-posted from the Link NKY.

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