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Community discusses medical marijuana issues

POLSON — About 14 community members attended the first medical marijuana meeting scheduled at the Polson Court House on April 27. Joyce Weaver, City of Polson Building and Planning Department Head chaired the meeting. 

Weaver assembled a volunteer committee to meet and solicit public input on medical marijuana regulations and zoning within city limits. 

Committee members will take the public comment and write a recommendation to the Planning Department to use in formulating medical marijuana zoning regulations for Polson.   

Committee members included Ken Avison, Polson business person, Todd Crossett, Polson City Manager, Margie Hendricks, Polson resident, Sgt. Wade Nash, Polson Police Department, Ken Siler, Polson resident, Sue Shannon, Lake County Planning Director, and David Whitesell, Superintendent of School District #23. 

Weaver and Building and Planning Clerk Cora Pritt put together a thick packet of information for the committee members. A public copy is available for perusal at Polson City Hall. 

Weaver gave some facts about medical marijuana users in Montana, such as the average age of 42, 70 percent of users have chronic pain, 3 percent use medical marijuana for cancer, glaucoma or aids.

Mentioning that Kalispell is on its first reading of banning medical marijuana within its city limits, Weaver said, “Here we are in Polson.”

Crossett started the ball rolling when he said, “Let’s go ahead and have a discussion. What do you think?”

Area residents brought up issues such as the county commissioners take on medical marijuana, the state of Montana allowing medical marijuana while it’s illegal federally, the Drug-Free Zones around schools as well as people walking down the street smoking a joint.

Public use was a concern Polson Mayor Pat DeVries has not considered. She said, “I was hoping to keep use … in private versus public.”

Agreeing with Kalispell’s approach, Polson city resident Lee Manicke said, “I think the temporary ordinance passed was extremely liberal.” 

Community member Maren Rae made the point that people aren’t using medical marijuana for recreation, they are using it to relieve pain. 

“Once they have a (medical marijuana) card, it’s no longer illegal,” Rae said.

Bill Shockley from Tomahawk, Wis. was visiting Rae and attended the meeting. 

Shockley said he was a registered nurse and a former hospice nurse. He said there are hospice patients out there using medical marijuana.

“Don’t turn them into criminals,” Shockley urged.

Polson City Commissioner Elsa Duford asked if the state does a background check on caregivers.

Nash said he thought there would be break-ins but if medical marijuana storefronts are allowed inside city limits in plain view, “downtown where everybody is” they would be easier to police.

As far as how much medical marijuana a patient can smoke or ingest, Nash said, “There is not a prescription which says ‘smoke one joint every three hours.’”

Bob Fulton asked the committee to consider how medical marijuana would benefit the city and at what cost to the city. 

Duford asked the committee and audience to keep it in focus — “this is a medical situation.”

The public is invited to another meeting to be held at the Lake County Court House on May 7 from 6 to 8 p.m.

Please enter on the west side of the building at the Sheriff’s entrance. 

Written comments will also be accepted and should be directed to the Planning Department, 106 1st Street East, Polson, before May 14 to be included in the staff report.

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