A medical-marijuana caregiver has filed a petition for a temporary restraining order against the city of Billings in an effort to prevent the city from enacting a possible retroactive ban on marijuana-based businesses within 1,000 feet of school zones.
William “Mort” Reid, who owns Canni-Rx Caregivers on the 1200 block of Avenue C, filed the petition against the city in Yellowstone County’s 13th Judicial District Court on Friday. It also includes a request for a hearing on the suit.
According to the petition, Reid is a licensed medical-marijuana caregiver and registered his company with the state on March 24.
He said he is concerned that the City Council, which placed a moratorium on new medical-marijuana businesses last month so it could discuss how to regulate them, could enact a retroactive ban on such businesses near schools. Reid’s business is located a few blocks from Lewis and Clark Middle School.
“Any time the zoning commission has passed a law, after the fact they’ve always grandfathered in the existing businesses,” Reid said. If a retroactive ban goes into place, it could kill his business and force him to break written contracts with his patients, the petition said.
In late May, the city’s medical-marijuana ad hoc committee was presented with a draft of an ordinance and several options for zoning the businesses. If approved, that ordinance would ban them within 1,000 feet of residential businesses, churches, schools, cemeteries, day cares and other public and government locations.
Reid operates his business legally and in accordance with state law and there were no zoning ordinances regarding medical marijuana when he was issued his business license, the petition said.
“The City has taken action that threatens to close down a lawful business through an ex post facto application of a regulation that is not yet in place,” the petition reads. “This would cause Mr. Reid to be in immediate breach of contract, deny his patients of their supply of medicinal marijuana, and create financial hardship to both business and patients.”
The petition also questions the legality of an alleged May 20 visit to Reid’s business by a code enforcement officer and a Billings Police officer. It says that the code eEnforcement officer asked the business’ secretary to show him the patient registration cards because he wanted to make sure the business was operating properly, something described as “quasi-legal” by Reid’s attorney, Brandon C. Hartford.
“It seems to me at this point that he’s got a legitimate operation,” Hartford said.
City Attorney Brent Brooks said city officials plan to meet with Hartford today to further discuss and clarify the petition. He said that because the moratorium doesn’t apply to Reid’s business and no zoning regulations have been set, they need more information.
“It appears that he is seeking prospective relief,” Brooks said. “We’re hoping to sit down and work out what it really is that they’re concerned about.”
He said the city had not been notified of a hearing date as of late Thursday afternoon.