Martin Kidston/Missoula Current 

Anticipating future growth in the recreational marijuana industry, the Missoula City Council on Monday adopted new language around licensing and regulating local cannabis businesses.

Addressing the industry's energy consumption will come at a later time, city officials said.

“This is just for the ordinance – the energy piece will be returning to committee in the future,” said city planner Cassie Tripard. “This ordinance is to create a new business type for cannabis, which allows us to track these businesses, establish legal nonconformities and implement building-code changes.”

Council members supported the changes on a unanimous vote and described them as a light touch on an emerging industry.

The ordinance now includes language and definitions specific to the cannabis industry, and it details the required licensing, fees and recording of new marijuana businesses. It also places the marijuana industry into its own business category.

“When we undertook the zoning action, there was a lot of talk about how the voters of Missoula County overwhelmingly approved the use of legalization recreational cannabis,” said council member Jordan Hess. “Our regulations should have a similarly light touch, and that's what we did.”

The zoning actions were taken late last year to limit where a dispensary can locate, and how the retail space is displayed to the public. New dispensaries can be no closer than 500 feet from an existing dispensary, and they're not permitted to frost their front windows.

The city is expected to address the industry's intensive energy use later this year. State law permits a city to implement energy conservation standards that are stricter than state standards, so long as they are voluntary, and any incentives are encouraged and not required.

“The energy component is a separate issue. We've carved it out,” said council president Gwen Jones.

Some have argued that limiting dispensaries and pot-related businesses to 500 feet from another will eventually create a de-facto cap on the industry. After Montana voters approved recreational marijuana, all existing medical marijuana providers were allowed to begin selling recreational pot.

Next year, the state will begin accepting licenses for new businesses, which could change the current landscape of dispensaries and cultivators. The city will revisit its marijuana ordinance when they day comes.

“We will have to revisit what that looks like when we approach the 2023 horizon when additional business will be able to enter the market,” said Hess.