County sets date to discuss medical marijuana issues

05_6875TREE PLANTING  — From the left, Dru Gunderson, Mayor John Shevlin, John Callahan, and Rich Anderson plant a Poplar tree in Legion Park for Arbor Day. Later on the city crew put in a pair of Linden trees. The city crews have been planting about eight trees a year over the past few years in city parks.  I-O Photo by Buck Traxler

By Buck Traxler, I-O Editor

County commissioners set June 7 at 5:15 p.m. in the courthouse to discuss the commercial, health, and public safety issues of the medical marijuana growing industry on the residents of Pondera County.

The sale of marijuana for medical purpose is fast becoming a hot topic across the state.

In Pondera County there are 17 caregivers, people who can legally grow marijuana for medical purposes and 45 patients.

It can be used for chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures, HIV (AIDS), multiple sclerosis, cancer or glaucoma to name a few.

Commissioner Cynthia Johnson commented, “There is no guidance across the state, it’s pretty much a free-for-all.”

In addition, she noted that the county is not zoned and the commissioners would need to draft a new ordinance which would be for commercial use.

It would effect the entire county from the largest businesses to small Mom and Pops, plus every farm and ranch would then need to purchase a business license. “Not going to happen,” she said with emphasis.

Many cities and counties are scrambling across the state to pass a moratorium so the issue can be studied.

One example is Anaconda-Deer Lodge County this past week held a public hearing to vote on an  urgency ordinance prohibiting medical marijuana establishments for a period not to exceed six months so they can study the issue and come up with recommendations.

The City of Glendive had passed  moratorium on marijuana businesses, but are bringing it back to the table to discuss it further. The clerk and recorder there wrote to Johnson saying, “The marijuana issue seems to be quite uncontrollable and unregulated.”

Billings recently closed 25 medical marijuana shops after discovering they were not registered with the state as caregivers.

And closer to home, the City of Cascade is considering banning medical marijuana shops.

In other business, the commissioners moved to approve the renewal agreement with Joint Powers Trust (JPT) for group health insurance for county employees for FY-2010-11. The county plan premiums increased by 8 percent with the employee-only coverage at $442.89 per month, up from $410.64.

The county pays $300 toward full-time employees’ premium. For part-time employees the rate is pro-rated based on hours worked. Employees pay the rest of the premium. A two party premium went up from $806.96 to $870-92 and a family plan went from $1,100.49 to $1,187.93.

On a related insurance topic, the commission moved to approve the Payroll Account Acknowledgement.

Employees participating in the Flex Medical Reimbursement would be issued a payment card which the employee could present for payment of allowable medical expenses at the time of service with the AFLAC NOW card.

Johnson moved to approve the approach agreement requested by MATL LLP Inc., to encroach on the county right-of-way of Midway Road for the purpose of installing an approach on the south of the road. The motion passed.

Due to high maintenance and repair costs required for the eight Caterpillar road graders being leased with the option to buy by the county, and regulation requiring more stringent regulation of environmental impact factors on equipment, the commissioners and road crew have been looking at replacing the graders.

Johnson moved to publish a solicitation for bids with specifications for eight (8) graders and to set the bid opening date and time on June 9 in the commissioner’s office at 10 a.m. The motion passed.

Cheryl Curry from the Port Authority was on hand to report that the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) had accepted a bid for foundation work for the Brady project.

R.C. Scott Enterprises out of Choteau was the only bidder for $10,419.75 which was accepted.

It is pending on approval by the NSP staff and the Montana Department of Commerce.

Two bids for demolition and excavation work were opened for the same above project. One was from Garman Construction for $9,661 and the other from Fuson Excavation for $6,700, the latter being accepted.

This bid is also pending the approval of NSP and the Montana Department of Commerce.

And, the commissioners moved and approved the GovTeller Merchant agreement between TranLogix and the county for credit/debit card payment processing services for taxes, fines, and other payments to the county.

The card swipe machine will be in the treasurer’s office. The county will not pay the transaction(s) fees. Montana law does not allow government entities to pay transaction fees.

If the customer opts for the opportunity to make payments by credit/debit card, they will be responsible for the additional convenience fee payment.

County commissioners meet every Wednesday at 10 a.m. in their office for a business meeting. The public is always welcome at the meetings to see their government in action.