Recreational Marijuana Policy in Missoula

Missoula Recreational Marijuana Policy White Paper Outlines Possible Zoning Recommendations

Back in November 2020, Montanans voted to legalize the adult use of marijuana. After some hemming and hawing at the state level regarding the regulation of the formerly controlled substance, cities are now forging ahead to shape municipal policy for marijuana use.
On September 15, 2021, the City of Missoula Department of Planning released a white paper with recommendations for land use and zoning policies for adult-use marijuana products. Most of the suggestions simply align existing zoning regulations with the framework outlined in the new legislation.
In the CRE world, these regulations won’t just affect the retailers of marijuana products. Manufacturing, testing, and distribution are also considerations mentioned in the white paper. We briefly cover retail considerations in this post. Our team will dive deeper into the recommendations for industrial uses later. Please note that this is not an exhaustive recap of the suggestions. There is not yet a final, formal policy for adult-use marijuana retailers in Missoula.
Retail Overview
One significant takeaway is in the timeline for these new businesses. Only existing medical marijuana facilities will be issued a business license for adult-use products from January 1, 2022, through January 1, 2023. It’s not until that date – January 1, 2023 – that any new retailer will be able to apply for a business license in Montana.
A primary concern is the location of marijuana retail and manufacturing establishments. All adult use establishments are restricted to B, C, and M zoning. That’s business, commercial, and industrial, respectively.
Marijuana businesses are treated like bars or other alcoholic services. The recommendations suggest a 500-foot buffer between these businesses and churches and schools. And, like many bars, no one under 21 years of age is allowed to enter an adult-use facility (unless they also have a medical card).
According to state law, recreational and medical marijuana dispensaries may operate out of the same space if the business is owned by the same person. The white paper also suggests a 500-foot buffer between marijuana businesses. (But, with Missoula already ranking #1 in dispensaries per capita, the proliferation of these shops is already well underway).
In other cities, caps exist. Bozeman caps the number of dispensaries at 20 total. Missoula planners have not yet determined the methodology for capping dispensaries.
State regulations prohibit the use of marijuana products in public and at dispensaries. So, no popping a gummy while in the store. Per the state law, these businesses must have one entrance for customers and have to close by 8 pm.
What’s Next?
None of these recommendations are formalized in city policy. As the city staff solicits public comment, they will also gather input from experts and stakeholders. Once that comment period closes, an amendment will be drafted and presented to the Missoula City/County Planning Board. That body then refers the policy to City Council. Council then votes on the amendment to the existing Title 20 Zoning Ordinance. Only then will the framework to Missoula recreational marijuana be a formal policy to help guide retailers. 
Now is the time to weigh in with your comments and input via Engage Missoula.
Stay tuned for more on what this means for the industrial sector in an upcoming blog post.
Still have questions? Contact retail expert Connor McMahon or industrial expert Claire Matten for more information.