By: Tara Blue
On Tuesday, Feb. 20th, the Ashland Board of Aldermen passed a resolution which reduced the minimum walkable distance from a marijuana-infusion manufacturing facility to an elementary or secondary school, licensed child day care center, or church from 1000 feet down to 873 feet. Ashland city code chapter 29, section 29.020 (B) says the board may reduce the distance by resolution if the applicant shows good cause.

873 feet was determined to be the distance from the proposed marijuana-infused manufacturing facility in the Liberty Square development to the nearest childcare center, the Ashland Childcare Center at 701 E. Liberty Lane.

The request to change the minimum walkable distance came on behalf of EmmaLeaf Process, LLC. EmmaLeaf is a Missouri cannabis manufacturing licensee and has applied for a building permit for a marijuana-infused manufacturing facility.

EmmaLeaf Owner and CEO Josh Oxenhandler made his case to the board, stating that his marijuana-infusion manufacturing facility will create infused products such as cookies, brownies, and chocolate bars.

He says his facility is wholesale, or business to business, and will have no consumer sales or consumption on site. Oxenhandler says they will also have no storefront, no major signage, and said the building will have a 10-foot fence with razor-wire and armed security at all times. He says they want to begin soon and plan to hire 18-20 local employees.

Oxenhandler also submitted a letter from Mr. Nathan Martin of the Ashland Childcare Center stating that they have no objections to the building being located within the 1000-foot minimum setback.

City Administrator Kyle Michel stated in his report that city staff could find no rationale or context as to why marijuana-infused products manufacturing facilities require a greater setback of 1000 legally walkable feet from schools, daycare centers, or churches as opposed to the 300 legally walkable feet required for marijuana cultivation and testing facilities.
However, city code mentions the possibility of combustible gases or CO2 being released in the extraction process, a unique factor of the marijuana-infusion process.

Alderman Rick Lewis asked Oxenhandler about the possibility of odors coming from the building. Oxenhandler said their company worked with engineering groups to implement multiple HVAC odor controls, including charcoal filters, and said that nothing will be smelled from outside the building.

All board members voted yes except for Alderman Nathan Volkart who was absent, Alderman Loren Plank and Alderman David Wilson. The final vote was 3-2 and City Administrator Kyle Michel stated that because it was a resolution, it passes with only 3 “aye” votes.

After the vote, Mayor Slinker requested that Plank and Wilson explain their “nay” vote. Alderman Plank stated that numerous studies show that the legalization of marijuana has an adverse effect on children and is not conducive to raising families. Alderman Wilson declined to explain his vote.