GREAT FALLS - The Great Falls City Commission held a special meeting on Tuesday to discuss the topic of recreational marijuana stores inside city limits.
Dale and Janelle Yatsko own a medical marijuana shop in Gibson Flats, just outside of city limits, and want to open a location in town. They need a safety inspection certificate to do so but have been denied by the city.
In a letter from the city to Raph Graybill, their lawyer, the city said they upheld their decision partly due to 2021 state legislation which requires that restrictions on limitations must be expressed, not simply implied.
The Yatskos were unavailable for comment but Graybill spoke to the commission on their behalf, arguing the city must let them within city limits according to state law.
“The reason this appeal comes to you is because the state has additionally authorized the Yatskos to open a second location,” Graybill said. “What happened here was not the actual denial of a safety inspection certificate. It was the refusal to process one in the first place. It was the idea that we can’t go forward in the first place because we’ve got this city zoning law that says things that are illegal federally, we can’t authorize that in Great Falls.”
Under state law, counties where most voters put yes on approving Initiative 190, legalizing marijuana, are green counties. Marijuana businesses in those counties are not subject to local government approval processes. The exception is making a referendum and putting it on the ballot for community members to vote on.
“This is not a debate about the merits of the drug itself. That decision has been answered," Great Falls Mayor Bob Kelly commented. "The issue here is following the directive, whatever that directive we interpret to be in the law.”
The commission voted 4-1 to make a referendum and put it on the ballot for voters in November. Commissioner Eric Hinebauch was the lone nay vote, stating he was in favor of approving the appeal.