The parties in a suit over marijuana dispensaries inside the city limits were in court on Thursday to determine whether or not the plaintiffs had a case against the city of Great Falls.
Cascade County District Judge David Grubich did not make a ruling on whether to grant Janelle and Dale Yatsko a preliminary injunction. Instead, the parties will present one last set of briefs and responses before Grubich makes a decision on the case’s final outcome.
That decision could come as early as two weeks from now.
The Yatskos have owned a marijuana dispensary outside the city limits for 14 years. In February, they filed for a Safety Inspection Certificate application with the city and were denied based on a city zoning code that reads, “no use of land shall be permitted by right or conditionally permitted within the city of Great Falls that is in violation of federal, state or local law.”
Since recreational marijuana use is still prohibited under federal law, marijuana businesses are not allowed within the city limits of Great Falls.
The Yatskos filed suit in June asking for a preliminary injunction against the city.
The couple’s attorney, Raph Graybill, argued in Thursday’s hearing that the passage of legislation legalizing marijuana sales in Montana should supersede any city ordinance that is inconsistent with state law.
Graybill also argued that legislation states the only way to change a county’s status from approval to disapproval of recreational cannabis or vice versa is a vote from the public. He said the city violated that law by effectively prohibiting cannabis sales inside Great Falls.
Great Falls City Attorney Jeff Hindoien contended that the judge has the obligation to preserve the status quo and to minimize harm to all parties when making a decision. He argued that the city is allowed to create codes that are more stringent than state law but not ones that are less stringent than state law.
Hindoien also pointed out that the original framework for recreational marijuana legalization had an express condition stating that charter municipalities like Great Falls could not prohibit sales within the city. The iteration of the bill that passed, however, was stripped of that condition.
Hindoien said a local referendum is in the works for the November ballot to put the issue to voters of whether marijuana dispensaries can operate in Great Falls.
However, Graybill said it's still an open question as to whether or not that referendum will go through. He said that the Yatskos' litigation is not moot because someone could, in theory, seek a preliminary injunction arguing that the election is invalid.
This article originally appeared on Great Falls Tribune: Attorneys argue over marijuana dispensaries in Great Falls