Luella N. Brien
Thursday, March 25, 2021
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Satellite image by Google Maps
This satellite map shows the distance between a local childcare center and the proposed location of a medical marijuana dispensary. The dispensary’s application was denied by the city council due to the fact that proposed business location was less than 1,000 feet from the childcare center.

The Hardin City Council unanimously voted Tuesday evening to deny an application for a medical marijuana dispensary at 305 N. Center Avenue in the downtown Hardin area.

After about 15 minutes of public comment from local residents via video conferencing, city aldermen denied the application submitted by Alicia and Greg Lucker.

In the end, the simple fact that the dispensary was less than 1,000 feet from a local childcare center was the deciding factor.

If the dispensary was approved the state licensure for Tiny Tots Childcare Center at 115 Old Hwy 87 would be in jeopardy, said owner Sierra Davis.

Davis, who opened late last year, said her center has been full since the third week it has been open. It serves as a daycare and preschool for infant 6 weeks old to 8 years old and if her license were revoked about 15 families would have no childcare options.

Greg Lucker said he or his wife were not aware there was childcare center in the area.

“We certainly didn’t try to press on an application in violation of any city of state ordinance,” he said, “but it is what it is, it’s apparent that the vocal people do not want us in the community.”

Lucker said most of the research about the potential business location was conducted online via Google Maps.

A recent search on Google maps shows the nearby childcare center’s location is listed as a now-defunct hot rod shop.

The Luckers own A Lucker, LLC and do business as Silver Leaf Cannabis Co., based Bozeman. They also have dispensary locations in Butte, Missoula and Helena.

During public comment, Larry Curtis, a retired health care professional, acknowledged the medicinal benefits of cannabis, but he said he has had personal experience with marijuana and knows first hand how it can rob a person’s “motivation.”

The dispensary would have been located in the old Oh's Bakery building, next to Argi Leasing.

Dee Ann Sargent and Colleen Moulett, of Agri Leasing, signed a dissent letter citing public events and heavy foot traffic as reasons to deny the business license for the dispensary.

“We have concerns about the traffic and activities that might take place in this location and how it would affect our business,” read the letter signed by the women.

Several staffers from OneHealth Hardin submitted letters opposing the dispensary. One letter submitted by Megkian Doyle questioned the Luckers intentions and long-term ties to the community.

Lucker said he planned on purchasing the Oh's Bakery building and has already hired two area residents who recently graduated from Montana State University to work in the Bozeman dispensary.

Nola Vandersloot gave an emotional testimony during public comment about her son who was under the influence of alcohol and marijuana when he drove the wrong way on the highway. After her son hit a state trooper in a head-on collision both of the men died.

“If even one life is lost, it’s not worth it,” she said, as she fought back tears.

In Vandersloot’s letter to the council, she mentioned the detriment the dispensary would have to the downtown area.

“I feel like Main Street of a town is a representation of a town and its people,” she wrote. “I do not want the marijuana dispensary to be in a prime location on Center Street.”

The dispensary would have been housed in one of three empty storefronts on the east side of Center Avenue, and with two other businesses closing, that will leave only three active businesses on that side of the street by summer.

“We are the most regulated industry in the state,” Lucker said. “(A medical marijuana dispensary) isn’t making a community less safe, in fact, we are making the community safer, because we are selling a product that is tested and regulated. On the street marijuana can be laced with something, but that’s not the case with a dispensary.”

Lucker said the company has no plans to re-apply for a business license in Hardin.”

“It’s pretty apparent the community of Hardin doesn’t want another cannabis provider in the area,” he said.

This story has been correct to reflect the location of the proposed marijuana dispensary is the former Oh's Bakery building, not the former Hardin Photo building as previously was reported.