By Christopher M. McHugh and Andrew J. Goodwin, Seigfreid Bingham, P.C.

On recommendation of the City Council Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, it looks like Kansas City is on the verge of passing an ordinance requiring any medical marijuana business in the city to be located at least 750 feet from a church, school or daycare.  This “buffer zone” is much higher than the 300 foot requirement adopted by other cities in the area like St. Joseph and North Kansas City.  And the effect of this heightened buffer may be to effectively counter the Missouri Dept. of Health’s plan for diversity in marijuana business.

Since Article 14 of the Missouri Constitution was passed, making medical marijuana legal in the state, the Missouri Dept. of Health has worked diligently on ways to increase diversity in the industry.  Lack of diversity is a huge problem, and many states are going to great lengths to try and combat it.  For example, after Maryland discovered that minorities were awarded none of the 14 marijuana cultivation licenses initially issued by the state, the General Assembly passed a bill directing that four additional cultivation licenses be issued, this time only to minority-owned businesses.

The main component of the Missouri Dept. of Health’s diversity effort gives bonus points for marijuana business license applicants who plan on locating in zip codes with extremely high unemployment, exceeding 10 percent.  The idea is that residents will see at least some economic benefit from the money spent on medical marijuana in their communities, and at best be encouraged to participate in operation and/or ownership of a medical marijuana business.  For the most part, these bonus zip codes have a higher percentage of minority residents.  In Kansas City, it should be no surprise that almost all the zip codes qualifying for bonus points form a line following Highway 71 from Interstate 70 to Bannister Road.

Both Article 14 and the Dept. of Health regulations practically mandate that the 5th Congressional District in Missouri, which covers much of Kansas City, will have 24 dispensaries.  In fact, because the metro area spans three different congressional districts, it is almost guaranteed there will be many more than 24 dispensaries in and around Kansas City, regardless of what any buffer ordinance says.  What Kansas City’s 750 foot ordinance might do is make it nearly impossible to locate those dispensaries in densely populated, high unemployment areas, instead pushing the businesses and money they generate out to less populated, less diverse areas, which is exactly what the Dept. of Health has gone to substantial effort to avoid.

Chris McHugh and Drew Goodwin lead Seigfreid Bingham P.C’.s Cannabis Practice Group, dedicated to helping plant touching and plant adjacent businesses meet all the different legal challenges in the marijuana and hemp industries.

This article is general in nature and should not be constituted as legal advice. Readers with questions should contact the authors at 816.421.4460.