Ely finally passes new cannibinoid ordinance

Catie Clark

ELY— After four months of moratoriums and failed first readings, the Ely City Council passed ordinance 367 on Tuesday, to license and regulate edible cannabinoid product dealers within city limits. The new ordinance stipulates that businesses must apply and obtain permits for selling both “on-sale” and “off-sale” edible cannabinoid products.
“On-sale” purchases are those where the product, like a beverage containing tetrahydrocannabidol (THC), is consumed on the premises where it was bought. “Off-sale” products are those which are bought at a store and then consumed elsewhere. All edible cannabinoids for sale must already comply with Minnesota’s edible cannabinoid law.
Ely’s new ordinance will take effect 30 days from April 8, which is the date of the legal publication of the law in local print news media. All sellers of these products must obtain the appropriate permit(s) once the law takes effect, even if they are one of the handful of businesses grandfathered to sell edible cannabinoids in the city. These businesses began selling the legal cannabinoids before Ely passed its first moratorium on their sale in December 2022.
A review of what is in the ordinance was reported in the March 24 edition of the Timberjay. The ordinance presented to the council at the April 4 meeting by Kelly Klun, the city’s attorney, added theaters to the list of businesses that can apply for an on-sale permit. Hospitality-sector businesses which sell food for consumption on their premises like restaurants, hotels, and clubs are eligible for an on-sale permit.
The other notable addition to the new ordinance concerned the term of the edible cannabinoid permits, which will be one year, and will run from Sept. 1 to Aug. 31., except for those issued mid-year.
The council’s debate
The public hearing on the edible cannabinoid ordinance started at 5 p.m. No one signed up to testify. At the hearing, Mayor Heidi Omerza noted that the city had received three letters prior to the public hearing, which were also considered by the council as public input.
All three letters were opposed to any sale of edible cannabinoids within city limits. Two of the three letters confused CBD (cannabidiol), which is not a human intoxicant, with the cannabinoid intoxicants derived from cannabis such as THC.
Both Minnesota law and Ely’s new ordinance permit the sale of all legal edible cannabinoids, including those containing the intoxicants like the delta-8, delta-9 and delta-10 isomers of THC and HHC (hexahydrocannabidol). The definition of a cannabinoid is any substance derived from Cannabis sativa plants. Minnesota legal edible cannabinoid products may not have more than five milligrams of THC per serving.
The council debate on the ordinance started off with council member Al Forsman repeating the motion he made at the March 21 city council meeting: to remove the on-sale permit option for the ordinance.
“Over the last few weeks, I’ve talked to no less than two dozen people regarding this ordinance and its details,” Forsman said, “and actually, not one person outside of this council told me they were in favor of on-sale … there are serious consequences from consuming.” As an example, Forsman noted that a positive blood test for someone with a commercial driver’s license could lead to job loss.
After a short discussion about consumer and business awareness on how cannabinoids can affect those whose employers test for drugs, the council voted on the motion, which then failed.
Council member Adam Bisbee made a second motion, to add a signage requirement for on-sale permit holder, “to inform customers of the potential consequences of consumption.”
Klun pointed out that any additional provision that the council added to the ordinance “has to be written out.” Bisbee withdrew the motion.
The final vote on the cannabinoid ordinance was 4-2, with Forsman and Ryan Callen in opposition.
The city council received correspondence regarding the receipt of two awards. The first was the designation of Ely as a 2022 Tree City USA, granted by the Arbor Day Foundation. Ely has received this award every year for as long as any one at the meeting could remember.
The second award was described by city clerk and treasurer Harold Langowski as “a complete surprise.” The Minnesota Council of Airports on March 27 announced that the taxiway project at the Ely Municipal Airport was the “Key Intermediate General Aviation Airport Project of the Year 2022.”
Sale of city lots
The council also approved the price change wording for a purchase agreement for East Spaulding Lot Block 2, Lot 15 for $12,000 to Sheryl and John Swenson. This item has been discussed in council meetings in February and March. At the March 21 meeting, the council asked Langowski to inquire if the price reduction from $15,000 to $12,000 was a fair price for Lot 15, which has been deemed unbuildable.
Langowski reported back at this meeting that Jim Burke, the city’s realtor, “thought this was a fair offer,” given that the lot can only be used as green space. In a related measure, the city council approved the first reading of ordinance 368, which changes Ely City Code, Chapter 20, Section 20.2.33, to allow the price change for Block 2 Lot 15, designated it as “deemed unbuildable,” and scheduled the required public hearing for the change for April 18, at 5:15 p.m.
Concerning other agenda items, the city council:
• Approved Mayor Omerza to sign a proclamation that April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
• Approved a recommendation from the Ely Utilities Commission (EUC) to purchase heaters for the Water Treatment Plant from JAMAR for $1,525, and an effluent sampler from HACH for $10,273 for the Waste Water Treatment Facility (WWTF).
• Approved $671,199 for the payment of the February EUC Bills.
• Approved payment of $75 to Anthony Gornik for installation of LCR Units.
• Approved the payments for city and EUC claims for April 4, 2023 for $164,035; the second quarter payment of $5,125 for the Ely Community Resource; a pay estimate for the Ely Waste Water Treatment Facility (WWTF) improvements project from Rice Lake Construction Group; and an invoice for Coil’s Flags, Flagpoles, Embroidery for $7,462.
• Approved a change order for the WWTF improvements project. Langowski said the change order will cover railing and catwalk work, and will add a level transmitter for the biosolids tank, which currently lacks one. “The railing work will make us OSHA compliant,” Langowski said, explaining why the work was necessary.
• Appointed Sean Clark to the open seat on the city’s Telecommunications Advisory Board for a term Expiring 1/31/2025.
• Rejected the trailhead site bids from May 12, 2021. Langowski reported the bids were kept in the hopes they could be used, contingent on funding arrangements, and added the bids were now too dated.
• Made a resolution for the city to apply for and accept funds from Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board for the fiscal year 2023 Regional Trails Grant Program. Langowski explained that the moneys would improve the signage of the city’s trails.
• Designated the Ambulance Joint Powers Meeting on April 13 in Winton to be a special meeting of the Ely City Council.
• Approved the $15,160 design proposal from Dirt Candy Designs for the Ely Area Mountain Bike Trail Expansion project. Langowski noted, “This is for the preliminary design and to prepare the cost estimates.” He added, “We (already) have the funds … 50 percent from the city, and a 50 percent match by the (Ely Nordic) Ski and Bike Club.”

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