Billings Moves to Tighten Restrictions on Medical Pot Centers

After delaying a vote to gather more public input, City Council members in Billings, Mont., gave the initial go-ahead this week to two ordinances that will prevent new marijuana dispensaries from opening and restrict the operations of those currently in business.

City Council must still approve the measures on a second reading – scheduled for Nov. 14 – before the changes are official.

One ordinance extends the current moratorium on medical marijuana centers for another 12 months, a move that officials say will keep the industry in check and prevent rapid, uncontrolled growth. Under the second ordinance, existing dispensaries will have to ensure that marijuana, related products and even depictions of cannabis are not visible from outside their buildings. The ordinance also restricts dispensary access to patients who are already registered – or are seeking to register – with a particular MMC.

An increasing number of cities and states are exploring similar measures to make medical marijuana dispensaries less visible in communities. Officials in Boulder, Colo., are cracking down on MMCs that clearly advertise to recreational users, while a proposal to legalize medical cannabis in Ohio specifically bars depictions of pot or using the word “cannabis” in signs that can be seen by the public.

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