Helena city commissioners gave first passage Monday to a resolution that would suspend enforcement of a portion of city code forbidding the city to license marijuana-related businesses.

Though medical marijuana is legal in Montana, the city of Helena cannot issue a business license to a marijuana dispensary or grow operation as marijuana is illegal under federal law. Section 4-1-11 of the Helena city code reads, “No provision herein contained shall be construed so as to license any trade, business, occupation, vocation, pursuit, profession or entertainment prohibited by any law of the United States or this state, or by any provision of this code.”

The resolution given first passage Monday would place a moratorium on enforcement of section 4-1-11 pending further action. A hearing for final passage will be held Dec. 17 at the commission’s final meeting of the year. If the resolution passes, licenses could be issued 30 days later.

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If given final passage, the resolution would suspend enforcement of section 4-1-11 through June 30, 2019, or until the city takes further action on it, whichever comes first.

However, should the resolution go through, no grandfather clause exists for businesses founded while the moratorium is in effect. The resolution explicitly warns that no business “allowed to continue or (that) is newly formed and begins operation as a result of this moratorium is entitled to any expectation of ongoing business operations” should the moratorium expire or the city decline to modify section 4-1-11.

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