BILLINGS — Billings city staff expect to have the application for medical marijuana dispensary business licenses ready to roll out around mid-January, said Billings City Administrator Chris Kukulski on Wednesday.
The reason for the delay is that the local marijuana regulations the City Council passed in November didn't go into action until recently, Kukulski said.
"Some have thought, well why aren't we totally ready to go on Jan. 1st. The Legislature passed their laws in early 2021, well those were helpful. That set the table for understanding what we could do at the local level. Then we were working pretty diligently through the summer and fall so the Council could adopt what the regulations are going to be in Billings," Kukulski said.
“Those rules literally went into effect Dec. 20. Just days ago were they ready to go, fully implementable for the January 2022 change," Kukulski added.
Medical marijuana dispensaries located in Yellowstone County will be able to sell recreational marijuana to adults over 21 starting Jan. 1, providing they are in good standing with the state and local government.
Billings voters said no in Nov. to recreational dispensaries setting up inside the city limits, but that still leaves eight medical dispensary licenses available in the city, and so far there's been high demand for the licenses.
Kukulski said the city finance office has fielded about 50 calls so far from people interested in applying for a license. Once the application is ready, it will be available for people to fill out online.
The requirements for a medical dispensary license are much the same as any other Billings business license, but there are a few more requirements. Kukulski said the applicant is required to get a background check and fingerprints done. As well, anyone with more than a five percent stake will be required to put their information on the application Kukulski said.
Another important part of the application is the location of the business.
"One of the first steps in that business license will be to put them in contact with our planning and zoning office to make sure whatever property that they are potentially looking at opening a dispensary that it is in compliance with our regulation," Kukulski said.
The cost to apply for a license is $350. A fee of $3,950 is required yearly from the dispensary licence applicants who are eventually chosen. The fees are the same for the other marijuana businesses of cultivation, transporter, manufacturing and testing lab.
If there are more than eight qualified applicants, a third party will run a lottery to see who gets the license. Kukulski said the third party still hasn't been chosen.
With marijuana businesses being relatively new to Billings, Kukulski asked for patience as applications start to roll out.
"How will we work that through in a way that allows those who are in need of medical cannabis to gain access to it, while at the same time keeping recreational sales out of the community as the voters pretty resoundingly said no in the November election," Kukulski said.