Zoning regulations regarding newly-legal medical-marijuana businesses consumed much of the Hannibal City Council session Tuesday evening.

The first comments came from Dana Ruhl, former Business Manager for Hannibal Public Schools. Ruhl expressed concerns that the 400 feet setback (which would prohibit legal marijuana businesses from operating within 400 feet of schools, churches, and daycares) was not a sufficient distance. Ruhl cited the Safe Schools Act, which imposes stiffer penalties for illegal drug activity within 1000 feet of a school. Ruhl suggested the proposed ordinance be changed to 1000 feet for legal medical marijuana businesses as well. (1000 feet is approximately three city blocks.)

Councilman Mike Dobson stated the distance should not be an issue regarding schools, as all Hannibal schools are in residential areas, which are not eligible for medical-marijuana businesses. Dobson also stressed the businesses would be tightly regulated by the State of Missouri. Only areas in Hannibal zoned Commercial and Industrial are eligible for the four types of marijuana-related enterprises: Dispensary, Cultivation, Infused Products Manufacturing, and Testing facilities.

Edie Price of the Department of Public Works expanded on the medical marijuana ordinance crafted by former City Manager Jeff LaGarce, before his departure. Price said it is correct that all schools are in residential zones, but there are areas where commercial zones are nearby, such as the west side of McMasters Avenue, across from the middle and high schools. However, the 400 foot setback (approximately one block) would prohibit a business from locating across from those schools.

City Attorney James Lemon said in the interest of full disclosure, he amended the ordinance approved by Planning and Zoning on March 28. Lemon was concerned the original language, which stated 400 feet from front-door to front-door, could be subject to interpretation and subsequent legal challenges. Lemon kept the 400-foot setback but changed to 400 feet from property-line to property- line, since those criteria are clearly defined.

Councilmen Godert asked if ordinance could be amended to provide a longer distance for schools and daycares, but left at 400 for churches. Lemon was agreeable to making those changes, if it was the council’s pleasure.

Councilman Welch made a motion to table the ordinance until the next meeting, in order to come to a consensus. However, NEMO Economic Development Council Director Corey Mahaffey advised there is a timing issue involved: applications for medical-marijuana businesses are due in June, and part of the application process involves having an approved site. Welch then withdrew his motion to table.

In the end, the council voted to give the medical marijuana ordinance a first reading as amended by City Attorney James Lemon.

In other business:

Proposal changes residency requirement for Fire Department

First Reading was given to an ordinance that would change the current requirement that Fire Department employees live within 20 miles of Hannibal. Fire Chief Mike Benjamin said it has become increasing challenging to recruit quality candidates; the ordinance would change to 35 miles from the city.

HFD to Seek Grant for Hazmat Equipment
A resolution is approved authorizing the Fire Department to seek a $11,650 grant from the State Homeland Security Program for 4 Hazmat Trailer Gas Monitoring Devices.

$10 Million in Waterworks Bonds to be Issued
Second and Final Reading was given to bill authorizing  issuance of $10 million in waterworks bonds for the chloramine replacement project at the filter plant.

Capital Improvement Plan Approved
The council approved a Resolution adopting the City’s 5-year Capital Improvement Plan for 2020-2024.

HHS Commencement May 16
Street closures around the high school are approved for the May 16 Commencement.

Street Dept. Material Purchases
Contracts for purchase of annual street materials and fuel for the Street Department were approved.

Huckleberry Park Tennis Court Resurfacing
Resurfacing of tennis courts in Huckleberry Park approved for the low bid of $33,700 from Sport Court St. Louis.