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St. Louis County Council Backs 1,000-Foot Buffer For Medical Marijuana Facilities

Members of the St. Louis County Council meet on Sept. 3, 2019.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
Members of the St. Louis County Council meet Tuesday.

The St. Louis County Council wants a 1,000-foot buffer zone in unincorporated areas between medical marijuana facilities and schools, houses of worship and day cares.

It’s a move that split the county council on Tuesday, with some members saying the buffer zone made sense — and others contending it’s too onerous.

A constitutional amendment that Missouri voters approved last year spells out parameters for facilities that grow, manufacture, test and sell medical marijuana. Included is language that sets up a 1,000-foot buffer zone between a facility and a house of worship, day care or school. But governments can institute shorter barriers if they wish.

The council voted on Tuesday to implement a 1,000-foot buffer zone for all facilities. It would only affect unincorporated parts of the county. Municipalities are free to set up their own rules, with 1,000 feet being the default.

Councilman Tim Fitch, R-St. Louis County, said it made sense to have a 1,000-foot buffer zone — especially since the medical marijuana facilities could become hubs for recreational marijuana cultivation or sales if Missouri legalizes the drug.

“Today we’re talking about medical marijuana. Tomorrow we’re going to talk about recreational — full legalization like we’re seeing going on around the country,” Fitch said. “Most of the states that passed their medical marijuana buffer zones are stuck with the same buffer zone for fully recreational marijuana use. So we want to go into this cautiously. And if we decide as a council that this needs to be less at some point in the future, we certainly could pass that legislation.”

Fitch joined council members Rita Days, D-Bel-Nor; Mark Harder, R-Ballwin; and Ernie Trakas, R-south St. Louis County, in voting for the legislation. Councilwomen Kelli Dunaway, D-Chesterfield; Rochelle Walton Gray, D-Black Jack; and Lisa Clancy, D-Maplewood, voted against it.

Dunaway said a 1,000-foot buffer zone could be difficult to pull off.

“I believe in urban areas it’s really hard to get 1,000 feet away from a school or a place of worship,” Dunaway said. “And I just wanted to give business owners and the people that are trying to get into this medical business an opportunity to have their business in a place that’s convenient for them.” 

The county’s planning commission had proposed a 500-foot buffer zone for dispensaries. But the commission didn’t approve similar requirements for other facilities. Legislation instituting the 1,000-foot buffer zone needs another vote before going to St. Louis County Executive Sam Page’s desk.

Investigation continues in Terry Tillman shooting

County officials are continuing to gather information about why a Richmond Heights police officer shot a 23-year-old man near the Galleria mall.

St. Louis County Police Department officials are investigating Terry Tillman’s death, which occurred on Saturday in a parking garage near a Clayton bank. Sgt. Benjamin Granda told reporters on Tuesday that a uniformed Richmond Heights Police officer and another officer working secondary duty spotted Tillman with a gun with an extended magazine protruding from his waistband. Firearms are prohibited on the Galleria’s property.

Those officers went to speak to Tillman, Granda said, and “he fled shortly thereafter.” 

“It’s 2019. Any reasonable person who sees an extended magazine protruding from someone, especially in a law enforcement, has an obligation to contact that individual and investigate,” Granda said. “I’ll give you a couple days to turn on your evening news, look nationally and see if we have any mass shootings. There is no way we cannot not address that person.” 

Granda said those officers started chasing him on foot and provided information on their radios to other law enforcement officials. He said that a different Richmond Heights officer shot Tillman in the torso in the parking garage, and that he was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.

When asked if Tillman’s gun was pointed at the officer who shot him, Granda replied: “It was raised to another on scene as the officer has indicated. Now we are going to continue our investigative efforts to ensure that is factual.” 

Part of the investigation includes looking at nearly 160 video cameras. Granda said officers plan to review an hour of footage from each camera. He said there was a camera in the parking garage where Tillman was shot. He said the investigation could take weeks, if not months, to complete.

St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell said in a statement on Tuesday that he was at the scene of the shooting Saturday afternoon and is monitoring the investigation. 

“In tragic cases like these, it is important to understand that the need to inform the public has to be balanced with ensuring the integrity of the investigation,” Bell said. 

Page also addressed Tillman’s shooting at Tuesday’s council meeting, stating that “every death of a young person is a tragedy.”

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page discusses the Tillman shooting during Tuesday's council meeting.

“Officer-involved shootings tear at the fabric of our community, whether an officer shoots a citizen or a citizen shoots an officer. No matter what the facts are, the division between police and the people they serve to protect is stressed even more,” Page said. “It’s now incumbent upon all of us to bridge those divides and rebuild relationships.”

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

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Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.