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Court rules Great Falls can't ban dispensaries without an election

Cannabis in jars. Stock photo.

Marijuana dispensary owners in Great Falls have won a lawsuit against the city. The decision determined a city where sales are legal can’t ban marijuana businesses without holding an election.

After Cascade County voters approved recreational marijuana sales in the 2020 election, Janelle and Dale Yatsko, the owners of Green Creek Dispensary outside of Great Falls, moved to open a second location within city limits.

But the city refused to process the paperwork needed for the store to open. City Attorney Jeff Hindoien argued a Great Falls ordinance gives it the right to ban businesses that sell federally illegal products even if that product is legal under state law.

However, Raph Graybill, attorney for the Yatskos, argued that the state law governing the cannabis industry supersedes the local ordinance.

“When state law is really specific, you don’t just get to invent your own rules,” said Graybill.

District Court Judge David J Grubich ruled on October 11 that the city’s ordinance was not a valid regulation and that the city must process the Yatsko’s paperwork for permitting.

The city may appeal the District Court decision, and Great Falls voters will decide on November 8th whether to approve a referendum proposed by the City Commission that would ban the zoning of marijuana business in city limits, as allowed by state law.

An attorney with the city of Great Falls did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

John joined the Montana Public Radio team in August 2022. Born and raised in Helena, he graduated from the University of Montana’s School of Media Arts and created the Montana history podcast Land Grab. John can be contacted at
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