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What impact the legal sale of recreational marijuana will have in Bozeman is still unclear, but city commissioners are preparing for a “new world” of weed in town.

The city is preparing for Jan. 1, when it will be legal in Montana to sell recreational marijuana, by updating the city’s code to take into account a new state law regulating the industry. City commissioners gave preliminary approval to an ordinance last week that incorporates the new state law by adjusting zoning requirements for marijuana facilities and treats recreational and medical businesses the same.

The biggest change for Bozeman is that, if the ordinance is approved on a consent vote in November, there will no longer be a cap of 20 cannabis businesses allowed in the city, and that those facilities will have to be slightly farther from schools, churches and the Montana State University campus.

The new rules would keep in place some existing regulations on marijuana businesses in Bozeman, like restricting them from a portion of Main Street downtown.

City commissioners amended the proposed ordinance to loosen the language on how far the businesses have to be from schools, churches and MSU’s main campus.

State law requires there be a minimum 500-foot buffer between the front doors of those institutions and a marijuana business, though it allows local governments to be more restrictive.

The city’s current code requires a 400-foot buffer between schools and marijuana businesses.

City staff at first proposed that Bozeman’s updated regulations go a step further and draw the 500 feet from the property line of the school or church, but Commissioner Christopher Coburn introduced an amendment changing the language back to what is required under the new state law.

Coburn criticized the state law, saying he believes the Legislature was trying to walk back the legalization as much as possible, after it was approved in a statewide referendum last year.

“I think us as a community being more restrictive than the already restrictive, bad law doesn’t really make sense to me,” Coburn said. “I don’t think it’s what folks in the community expect from us or want from us.”

The amendment passed 3-2, with Mayor Cyndy Andrus and Commissioner I-Ho Pomeroy voting against it.

Several commissioners said they would want to learn more before considering removing the restriction on marijuana businesses on Main Street in downtown Bozeman, and said they would want to revisit the ordinance in the future to see how implementation is going.

The entire ordinance passed unanimously, and will come back before the commissioners for a second vote in November.

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Nora Shelly can be reached at nshelly@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2607.

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