Certificates of compliance slowing down marijuana business renewals
Medical marijuana businesses have been working through a new certification process, and it’s taking some time.
A new law enacted Sept. 1 states medical marijuana commercial businesses must possess a “certificate of compliance” from the city and/or county where the business is located to receive a license to operate, or to renew an existing license.
“It’s basically a document that’s produced by that municipality or county that shows that business is in compliance with all ordinances in that city or county,” Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority Interim Director Travis Kirkpatrick said.
Obtaining these certificates of compliance is timely. Business owners are required to have them to retain their business licenses, but are having trouble getting quick responses from municipalities, which is complicating their commercial license renewal with the state.
“Everybody’s been very nice, but there isn’t a list of what has to be done,” Prairie Haze Farms LLC owner Kim Dansereau said. “I’m still in the process of going through compliance.”
Businesses must have proper inspections and be zoned appropriately to receive their certificate of compliance. In Oklahoma City, the following types of businesses must be in the proper zones, according to J.J. Chambless, a subdivision and zoning manager for Oklahoma City:
• Growers — agricultural, commercial or industrial zoning districts
• Dispensaries — commercial or industrial zoning districts
• Processors — commercial or industrial zoning districts if the processing doesn’t require any hazardous chemicals, and an industrial zoning district only if it uses hazardous chemicals
• Manufacturers of edibles — commercial and industrial zoning districts
• Testing laboratories — commercial and industrial zoning districts
“We applied the zoning we have to medical marijuana as we would any other legitimate business,” Chambless said. “We didn’t do anything special for it, we just treated it like any other business.”
For example, when considering the proper zones for dispensaries, Oklahoma City officials applied the same zoning restrictions applied to pharmacies, Chambless said. Similar businesses and similar services were considered for each situation to try and come up with the best fit for zoning requirements.
Dansereau moved her business after initially opening out of a house.
“We didn’t think we’d get a license that way, but we did,” Dansereau said.
Knowing the residential zoning would prevent the acquisition of a certificate of compliance the business was moved, but Dansereau is still working to obtain the certificate.
“The realities are sometimes people can be waiting weeks,” Kirkpatrick said. “Through no fault of their own we’re not able to consider their license.
“Effectively we are able to give them the balance of 120 days allowed by law,” he said. “If we can be helpful, we will.”
More than 100 medical marijuana businesses in Oklahoma City obtained their initial licenses at addresses that are incorrectly zoned. Many growers and processors have been operating out of houses in neighborhoods and residential areas.
There are distance restrictions for dispensaries, which cannot be within 1,000 feet of schools, but this restriction did not apply to growers or processors.
Medical marijuana business licenses are good for one year, so many of the industry’s early entrants into the market are in the midst of their renewal process, and checking all the boxes required for traditional businesses is slowing the process.
Kirkpatrick suggests a few things for medical marijuana businesses to consider if they have yet to go through the renewal process:
• Start the process early and get on the city’s inspection list
• Be proactive about the process and engage the city on conversations about requirements
• If in a rural area, talk with municipal leaders early and often as your business may be the first seeking that certificate