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The Bozeman Zoning Commission voted this week to forward proposed changes to the city’s regulations for marijuana businesses.

The city is adjusting its laws on marijuana as the city prepares for the New Year, when the sale of recreational cannabis will be legal in Montana. The changes include regulating medical and soon-to-be legal recreational marijuana businesses the same and increasing the distance those facilities must be from schools and other institutions.

The Zoning Commission unanimously voted to approve zone text amendments related to marijuana businesses, which will bring the city in line with state legislation passed this year regulating the industry.

Under current city codes, marijuana dispensaries and other related businesses must be 400 feet away from schools. Under state law and the proposed new city regulations, those businesses would have to be 500 feet from schools, churches and post-secondary institutions like Montana State University’s main campus.

City staff recommended that the 500 feet be measured from the property line of those institutions, rather than the closest entrance, which is what state law requires. The city is allowed to adopt more stringent requirements than state law.

Existing dispensaries that may not meet the additional required distance would be grandfathered in, according to the ordinance.

The Zoning Commission did add language to the recommended motion clarifying that the 500 feet be measured to the entrance of the marijuana business rather than the property line.

Zoning Commission member Nicole Olmstead said that since legalizing recreational marijuana was overwhelmingly approved, the city should work to implement clear guidelines.

“Now it’s not necessarily a question about whether or not marijuana is appropriate for business purposes within city limits, to me it’s more so how can we give staff the tools that we need in order to administer this in a way that’s timely for residents and also for business owners,” Olmstead said.

The Zoning Commission reviewed portions of the ordinance which pertain to zoning. The city commission is set to take up the rest of the ordinance, which includes broader regulations, at its Oct. 19 meeting.

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

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