City Council gives initial approval of moratorium regarding cannabis sales, use

Published 8:59 am Tuesday, August 8, 2023

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The Austin City Council on Monday night advanced a moratorium out of work session that issues guidance regarding cannabis sales and use within the city of Austin.

Most of Monday night’s conversation revolved around sales of cannabis products within the city of Austin, with the second part of the conversation covering how cannabis can be used in public.

The Democratically controlled Minnesota Legislature passed the legalization of recreational cannabis during this year’s session and Gov. Tim Walz signed the law on May 30. 

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It officially took effect on Aug. 1, however, there are only two places in the state that are currently allowed to sell cannabis — one on the Red Lake Reservation and the other opened by the White Earth Nation.

All other businesses will require state licensing and it’s projected those licenses won’t be available for another 17 months as the state works to get the Office of Cannabis Management up and running, however, the state gave municipalities the ability to pass moratoriums or ordinances through Jan. 1, 2025.

In a memo to the board prior to Monday night’s meeting, City Attorney Craig Byram said that the moratorium establishes that any business wishing to sell cannabis, “should wait and see what the zoning regulations will look like before solidifying their plans.”

It allows the city to say, ‘just know there is zoning that allows for this retail use and we are going to study and look to other cities and entities for best practices,’” Byram added during the work session.

The goal, Byram said, is to ensure that regulations adopted by the council will be a good fit for all people in Austin.

According to the state law, municipalities will be able to regulate licenses based on population that comes out to one license for every 12,500 people.

However, Byram also warned that the situation is fluid in that the legislature has already identified areas in the current bill they will seek to alter in the upcoming session.

“We know the legislation will be changed in the next session,” Byram said, adding that the moratorium will act like a safety net. “The legislation is a moving target … it just seems like a safe thing. We can always bail out of the moratorium.”

The moratorium will also guide use of cannabis in the City of Austin, following the same guidelines as smoking in public which prohibits smoking in: 

  • Public places and places of work;
  • Outdoor dining or bar areas, including sidewalk seating; and
  • Within 15 feet of entrances, exits, open windows and ventilation intakes of public places and places of work.
  • The moratorium would not affect edible cannabinoid products.

The council will look to pass the moratorium at its meeting on Aug. 21.