The owners of a Joplin natural foods and supplements store won approval Monday of a request to change the zoning of the store from light commercial to heavy commercial to make it ready as a potential site for a medical marijuana dispensary.

Suzanne Nelson, who has operated the store 28 years, said she and her husband intend to file an application to operate a dispensary by the state of Missouri's deadline Aug. 8. She said the state will decide which applications to grant at the end of the year.

She told the Joplin Planning and Zoning Commission at a public hearing Monday that she believes her store is a good site for a dispensary because it is located on the south side of the city in the medical district at 3106 Connecticut Ave.

Two people testified in favor of her request, and there was no opposition.

Nelson and her husband are both five-year survivors of cancer and they want to help cancer patients with the pain and sickness they endure as a result of the disease, she told the commission. By providing products that can help suffering, "for me this is an extension of what I'm about," she said.

Nelson said that if she obtains a dispensary license, she would remodel her building to create a separate entrance for the dispensary. Nelson is currently working on a 3,000-square-foot expansion that she would use for the grocery store operation; the dispensary would be located in an older part of the store. 

Nelson said she and her husband, William "Bill" Nelson, an emergency room physician, would operate the dispensary together if they obtain one of the dispensary permits.

The zoning panel voted unanimously to send a recommendation to the City Council that the zoning change be approved.

Suzanne's is the only medical marijuana zoning case currently pending with the city, said Troy Bolander, the city's planning director.

The City Council last week denied rezoning for the Silver Creek Park Wedding Chapel, 3925 S. Range Line Road, requested by owner Joe Burtrum Jr., that would have allowed that building to be considered as a dispensary site. A number of businesses and residents in that area voiced opposition to the request.

There is no guarantee that any particular city will receive a dispensary license from the state.

Under the state’s rules, a certain number of licenses for dispensing, cultivating of marijuana, manufacturing marijuana-infused products, and testing the marijuana and infused products will be issued in each of the state’s congressional districts, Lyndall Fraker, the director of the medical marijuana section of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services told The Globe last month. That is the state agency that oversees the state’s medical marijuana program.

Joplin is located in the 7th District, which encompasses 10 counties: Jasper, Newton, McDonald, Lawrence, Barry, Greene, Christian, Taney, Stone and Polk. There will be 27 licenses granted for dispensaries in that district, and there had already been 39 applications filed as of June 1, according to the department.

Council decision

The City Council will make the final decision on the requested zoning at an upcoming meeting.

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