Mitchell City Council approves medical marijuana changes, but resident pushes back on measurement method

“Property lines are the legal distinction from properties unlike doors,” said Nick Kummer, a Mitchell property owner.

medical marijuana
Dispensed medical marijuana.

MITCHELL — For medical marijuana dispensaries seeking to open in Mitchell, the way the city measures the distance between nearby dispensaries will look a bit different.

During Monday’s special meeting, the Mitchell City Council unanimously adopted a change that will scrap right-of-ways from being factored into the distance between medical cannabis dispensaries, a move that will ease regulatory red tape.

While the council did not go into discussion over the right-of-way changes since the brunt of that took place at the recent Feb. 7 meeting, a Mitchell resident who owns property near a proposed dispensary along Juniper Avenue voiced his opposition to another potential change that was recently discussed among the council. The suggested change that came under fire on Monday seeks to measure the distance between dispensaries by way of door to door instead of the current method from property line to property line.

Nick Kummer, a Mitchell resident and property owner near a proposed Juniper Avenue dispensary, pushed back on the suggestion to measure cannabis dispensaries from door to door, claiming it is “not practical” and does not follow industry standards. The proposed dispensary Kummer opposes was submitted by Donald Livesay Jr., who had his variance tabled by the council due to it falling within 1,000 feet from another dispensary located along South Burr Street.

“Measuring from door to door does not make sense. It is not practical and would require more oversight by city staff, which may not be feasible,” Kummer said during Monday’s special council meeting.


Although the council was not considering changing the measurement process to switch to door to door during Monday’s meeting, council member Steve Rice pitched making the change at a later date. For Rice, measuring door to door was a suggestion that he said will make the city’s ordinance more clear.

During the Feb. 7 council meeting, Rice noted that some lots where dispensaries are planning to open can be quite large, adding more distance to be factored into the buffer zone measurements.

“Some of the buildings are thousands of square feet. The property lines on some of the buildings are 300 to 400 feet away from the building,” Rice said at the Feb. 7 council meeting. “The intent was we did not want two or three of them all lined up next to each other, not that they are 1,000 feet away or whatever.”

Kummer said sticking with the current way of measuring distance between cannabis dispensaries through a lot line to lot line process is the most consistent and fair method. In addition, Kummer said door to door measuring is subjective, whereas the lot line method is more objective.

If a building owner decides to add on, Kummer said the door where the measurement begins could change.

“Property lines are the legal distinction from properties unlike doors,” Kummer said. “Measuring door to door is subjective in nature… Locations of outside doors can easily change.”

Kummer urged the council to closely follow the section of the ordinance that states the city’s cannabis regulations are put in place to protect nearby landowners and the public, not the marijuana establishments.

Right-of-ways change to help sidelined dispensary

Considering there are three medical cannabis dispensaries that are tabled due to some being within 1,000 feet from other approved dispensaries, the elimination of right-of-ways – which includes major roads like state highways and Interstate 90 – could pave the way for their plans to open a dispensary.


Before the approved change, the city’s ordinance factored in right-of-ways when determining how far apart a dispensary is from other cannabis establishments, religious institutions and schools. As part of the city’s zoning codes, a dispensary cannot be within 1,000 feet from another dispensary. In addition, a dispensary cannot be within 300 feet from a school or religious institution.

For some dispensaries seeking to open in Mitchell like Native Nations Cannabis, their buildings were within 1,000 feet from another cannabis establishment solely due to the right-of-ways being calculated into the measurements.

Native Nations’ proposed dispensary location at 1620 S. Burr St. near Interstate 90 is technically more than 1,000 feet from the nearest educational institution and another dispensary. However, if the right-of-ways are excluded in measuring the distance of buffer zones like the city's zoning codes outline, it would put the location within 1,000 feet from both Mitchell Technical College and another nearby dispensary, which requires a variance to receive approval.

With the council scrapping right-of-ways, Native Nations may not be required to seek a variance. Therefore, Native Nations could be the third dispensary to clear the hurdles needed to operate in Mitchell. As of now, there are two dispensaries fully approved to operate in Mitchell, while three remain in limbo pending their variance approvals.

Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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