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Hills Council Sends Marijuana Ordinance Back

The city's Planning Commission will take another run at an ordinance aimed at medical marijuana businesses.

City Council members voted Monday to extend a moratorium on medical marijuana-related businesses, to Sept. 8, 2011.

An existing moratorium was enacted last year to give officials time to review a land use ordinance that would effectively prohibit large growing operations and compassion clubs. It would have expired this month. The council approved the original ordinance on first reading in December, but in January after .

The ordinance would have prohibited land uses that conflict with federal, state and other laws. The state's Medical Marijuana Act allows patients who suffer from a certain illnesses to apply for permission to grow and possess a limited amount of marijuana for personal use, even though the drug is illegal under federal law. A registered caregiver can grow up to 12 marijuana plants for up to five qualified patients.

Several council members and some citizens who spoke after the ordinance passed on first reading were concerned the proposed ordinance would go too far, interfering with the rights of caregivers.

In addition, the state law, which officials have complained is unclear, is being challenged in the courts.

Mayor Jerry Ellis said the planning commission is being asked to consider a new ordinance that would comply with the laws "as we now understand them".

City attorney Steve Joppich is drafting the revised ordinance. He said he would bring it to a future city council meeting for review, before the planning commission takes it on.

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