Council passes cannabis moratorium

Published 8:05 pm Tuesday, August 22, 2023

As part of its regular meeting Monday night, the Austin City Council approved a cannabis moratorium as well as an ordinance for the use of cannabis and cannabinoid products.

The move comes after recreational use of cannabis went into effect on Aug. 1, and put into place guidelines as to sales of cannabis within the city as well as use in public.

As the state works to bring the Office of Cannabis Management into being, licenses for retail sales are likely around 17 months out.

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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,” said City Attorney Craig Byram in a memo to council-members earlier this year.

Currently, there are only two places in the state that are allowed to legally sell cannabis — one on the Red Lake Reservation and the other opened by the White Earth Nation.

All other businesses will require state licensing, however, the state gave municipalities the ability to pass moratoriums or ordinances up to Jan. 1, 2025.

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.

During a work session earlier this month, Byram also warned council-members of a fluid situation within the legislature, which 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 during that work session. “The legislation is a moving target … it just seems like a safe thing. We can always bail out of the moratorium.”

As for use in the public, cannabis use would be restricted along the same lines of smoking in public, which puts in place restrictions that include:

• 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.