CBD dispensary store plans hit snag
Ordinance change required to add use

By Laurie Arendt

April 9, 2019

 A sign on the front of the planned Erth Dispensary has been changed, removing the planned date for the opening to a hopeful “Coming soon.”
Photo by Art Dahlke

CEDARBURG — Plans for a second location for Erth Dispensary, a store selling cannabinoid products, have hit a bit of a snag.

Though the city has issued an occupancy permit for the business at W61 N510 Washington Ave., the intended business use is not part of the existing city code and thus is not permitted to operate in the city.

“While some municipalities are pretty flexible in their zoning codes, in this zoning district, Cedarburg lists specific permitted uses and only those types of uses listed can operate,” said City Planner Jon Censky. “Some uses can also be added by receiving a conditional use permit.”

The hurdle in this particular situation appears to be how Jennifer Kawczynski was directed when she first contacted the city about her family’s plans to open downtown. Instead of being directed to Censky, Kawczynski talked to the city building inspector, and that is how the permit was issued.

“The problem is that all new business applications go through me for review,” said Censky. “Had I seen an application, this is information I would have told her right away.”

For her part, Kawczynski said she’s a bit perplexed by the situation.

 “We received the occupancy permit and we’ve been making renovations to the space,” she said. “I don’t understand why this is happening now, but we are absolutely willing to go through this process. We want people to know that we are good neighbors and we are absolutely willing to do what we need to do. We have family members who now live in the community (above the store). This is a community we want to become a part of.”

Kawczynski explained that her family has already reached out to community groups to get involved in the greater Cedarburg area, including setting up a sponsorship and securing space to sell at Cedarburg festivals. She said the family envisions being an active part and supporter of the greater Cedarburg community, much as they are in Bay View, where their original location is.

“We know that part of our role in the community is education,” she said, noting that she understands the concern that some residents may have about her family’s business. Erth Dispensary sells products made from hemp, which is a plant in the Cannibis family, along with marijuana, though the two have some very distinct – and legal – differences.

Marijuana contains tetrahydrocannabinol, the compound that produces psychoactive effects, and remains illegal in Wisconsin. The amount of THC in hemp is low, 0.03 percent or less, and the amount of CBD is high, thus users don’t get any sort of euphoria or high from consuming it, but rather tout its therapeutic effects. It is legal to sell and possess CBD-based products in Wisconsin.

“We are very big on education and try to have enough staff in the store to give everyone a one-on-one experience,” said Kawczynski in an earlier interview. “Marijuana is high in THC and low in CBD; hemp is high in CBD and very low or has nonexistent levels of THC.”

She also noted that since plans for the store were announced, her family has received a “tremendous” outpouring of support from the greater Cedarburg community. “It’s been just amazing, and if I start thinking about it, I will tear up,” she said. “It’s not just customers but businesses who have contacted us about possibly doing some collaborations.”

However, support has not been universal. Censky noted that the city did receive a complaint about the business’ first “coming soon” signs, which included a marijuana-like leaf in the design.

“We immediately responded to that – we’re a family-based business and we can understand if someone has a concern of some sort – and we took that down and changed the sign,” said Kawczynski.

It is still possible for Erth Dispensary to receive approval to open in Cedarburg, but it will require a municipal process. What is for sure is that the store will miss its intended April 20 opening.

“What we need Jennifer to do is submit an application for review,” said Censky on Friday. “At that point, it will be put on a Plan Commission meeting agenda.”

The Plan Commission will then decide whether or not to recommend a zoning change that will allow CBD dispensaries as a permitted use in that zoning district. With an application filed, this would likely be on the May meeting agenda.

“At that point, should the Plan Commission make a recommendation, it would then go to the Common Council,” said Censky.

From there, a public hearing would be scheduled, and the Common Council could bring it to a vote. This has to happen in sequence, so depending on the May Common Council schedule – Censky was unsure if there would be a meeting due to the Memorial Day holiday on Monday – it could be on the Common Council agenda in May or June.

“We just want people to know that we plan to do whatever we need to do and that, while there is an unexpected delay, we are still planning to move forward and just be patient,” said Kawczynski.

Both the Plan Commission and Common Council meetings are open to the public.

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