ST. CLOUD — The City Council here Monday scrapped recommendations from the city's planning commission to implement buffer zones between THC and CBD retailers and youth-oriented places such as schools and parks.
St. Cloud was one of the first cities in the state to set specific parameters around the sale of THC products, which became legal in Minnesota in July, catching many officials by surprise. While a number of cities implemented temporary bans on the sale of THC edibles, the city of St. Cloud created an ordinance to regulate sales, similar to its tobacco ordinance. The ordinance requires businesses to be licensed annually and undergo compliance checks.
After the City Council approved the ordinance, the city's planning commission — which makes recommendations to the City Council about proposed developments and ordinances — asked city staff to draft an ordinance that would separate THC/CBD retailers from schools, parks, places of worship and other THC/CBD retailers.
The proposal, which included a quarter-mile buffer between retailers and the listed places, was "very restrictive" and would have allowed only a handful of THC/CBD retailers in the city, according to Matt Glaesman, community development director.
The planning commission's final recommendation to the council reduced the buffer between retailers and parks and places of worship to 350 feet. But it still included a quarter-mile buffer between schools and other retailers. This would have allowed for very few THC/CBD retailers downtown but would have opened up some possible locations along Division Street, Hwy. 10 and on the south side near Interstate 94, Glaesman said.
"There's no benefit to making it more difficult for small businesses to operate," Marie Schneider, owner of CBD of St. Cloud, told officials at Monday's meeting.
Schneider said she worried that business owners who lease property might not be able to move locations if their rent increases because a new site might be too close to another retailer. The ordinance could push businesses out of the city and into neighboring cities.
Council Member Mike Conway said creating buffer zones would be an "egregious overstep" because the city doesn't have similar zoning ordinances for tobacco or alcohol, which are simply regulated as "retail goods."
"I understand the emotions of 'Hey, we need to control this,'" he said. "We did that. We licensed it."
Council Member Carol Lewis proposed that the council pass a zoning ordinance that states THC/CBD sales are allowed to be sold in the city's commercial zones. The approved ordinance, which passed unanimously, eliminates all buffer zones.
"I don't want to overcomplicate this. This is a legal product," she said. "To be clean and simple is the way to go."