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City considers cannabis control options

With recreational cannabis now legal in the state of Minnesota, local cities can choose to regulate its sale in a variety of ways, Cloquet planner/zoning administrator Al Cottingham told the Cloquet City Council on Aug. 1.

“Conceivably we won’t see [cannabis dispensaries] in the public areas until late (2024 or in 2025), however, we have some neighbors to the west that I’m not sure what may or may not happen,” Cottingham said, referring to the Fond du Lac Reservation and noting that the Red Lake Band opened a public dispensary the same day that cannabis became legal in the state. “The tribal band areas are sovereign and … exempt from the state statute and being licensed by the state. I don’t know if Fond du Lac will follow suit.”

While a regulated market will take the state some time to develop, the city council does have a few ways it can regulate cannabis itself, via zoning laws, he said. The council could limit where dispensaries could be located, for example, only allowing them in the Central (downtown) or West End business districts, for example, Cottingham said. He noted the city must allow at least one dispensary per 12,500 residents according to state law, which means Cloquet (population 12,809) could cap the number at two.

The city can prohibit the sale of cannabis within 1,000 feet of a school, 500 feet of a daycare, residential treatment facility or an attraction within a public park that is regularly used by minors, including things like a playground, hockey arena or athletic field.

That would mean the CBD store between Pine Tree Plaza and Pine Valley wouldn’t be able to sell cannabis, although it’s allowed to sell CBD, Cottingham said.

A simple change to city code would make it illegal to smoke cannabis in city parks. Under the new state law, it’s illegal to smoke or vape cannabis anywhere that tobacco smoking is prohibited, including most businesses, apartment buildings and college campuses. So all the city would have to do is add smoking to the list of things that are prohibited in public parks, Cottingham said.

“We could draft that at the next meeting,” he said during his planning commission report.

In other matters last week, the city got a clean audit report for 2022 and updated its drug and alcohol testing policy for non-commercial drivers to change portions related to cannabis.

There was no further discussion on the West End “drifting” demonstrations during Tuesday’s meeting, but readers who want to see a video of the activity can find those on the Pine Knot News Facebook page. The next West End car meet is Friday, Aug. 11.

The Aug. 15 council meeting has been canceled for lack of agenda items. The next meeting is scheduled at 6 p.m. Sept. 5


It’s complicated

Rules in Minnesota around cannibus are indeed murky. What seems easy can suddenly become complicated when it comes to local control.

Can you just overlay cigarette smoking rules and include pot? Maybe, but some cities may want to rachet up rules when it comes to distance from children and the like.

Minnesota is outside the mainstream of recreational use states. Cannabis magazine GreenState looked at public marijuana smoking laws and found that most prohibit smoking on streets, while only a few allow smoking lounges (Minnesota does not). The first two recreational states — Colorado and Washington — do not allow any public consumption. Rhode Island, New York and Connecticut are the most permissive, allowing smoking wherever tobacco smoking is allowed.

Take a deep dive on the rules and reasonability around cannabis use on Page 18.