A new Branson ordinance will help give establishments, who designate smoking as being prohibited, an avenue to also prohibit smoking marijuana and make it punishable by law.
“The lodging association reached out to me with the concern about their guests that are smoking marijuana in their hotel rooms,” said Branson Mayor Larry Milton. “Lodging facilities have rules for smoking cigarettes in their rooms and when the guests violate that they typically don’t realize that it’s been in violation until a guest has checked out. I’m told that even with a credit card on file and a customer signs saying ‘I’ll pay a fee if I smoke in the room’, that they have difficulty collecting that fee from some of the credit card holders.
“Smoking marijuana creates a higher level of concern because of the odor it leaves in the room; and this is either people smoking with a card or not. But then they run into the same problem with somebody checking out, now they have the marijuana odor in the room; it’s a large expense to clean that up before the next guest. So, they came to the city and asked if we would enact a code to give them a little bit more teeth for the lodging association to enforce (smoke-free) in the rooms.”
According to a staff report from the city of Branson, in 2014, Chapter 58, Article VIII, Division 2 of the Branson Municipal Code was enacted which put into place “smoke-free” rules that limited smoking to various public places and locations throughout the city.
This chapter defines smoking to include marijuana, which is still considered a schedule 1 controlled substance at both the federal and state level.
This chapter also provides freedom of choice to an owner, operator or manager of an establishment, facility or outdoor area to designate, through signage, their area as a non-smoking area. It also penalizes smoking in an area where smoking is prohibited by a fine not to exceed $25.
According to the report, the purpose of this ordinance is to make the penalty for the smoking of marijuana in public places consistent with the penalty for other marijuana related offenses in the city.
By enhancing the penalty from a fixed fine of $25 to the same penalty of other marijuana offenses, users will be further discouraged from smoking in smoke-free facilities, according to the report.
This change will also allow owners and operators to seek restitution for their remediation efforts to remove the effects of marijuana smoke from their smoke-free designated facilities.
“Right now we have the smoke-free ordinance, passed in 2014. There was a lot of input from the public when that came through, and back then the decision was made to basically make it a flat penalty of $25,” said Branson City Attorney Chris Lebeck. “Our smoke-free ordinance emcompasses marijuana. What this change does is it says if it’s a marijuana violation of the smoke-free ordinance, it’s subject to our general penalty provision. So, if Chief Matthews writes a citation, hands it to the person that violates, they go before the municipal judge, Judge Motley, and the judge has the ability to sentence that person...anywhere from zero to 90 days or up to a $500 fine. That’s if he finds it’s a health safety violation.
“(This ordinance) also allows the court to seek restitution. Let’s say a person smokes marijuana, has a hotel party...even though it’s a smoke-free facility, and causes thousands of dollars of damage to that room. There’s a lot of remediation efforts that have to be done. What this will allow the court to do is basically hang some penalty over that person (and) suspend it to get restitution covered for the lodging establishment that’s been affected.
“We can’t do that with a $25 fine, but we can do that if we open this up to what I call the general penalty provision. That’s the end goal here, to be able to accommodate that.”
This item was passed unanimously by the board on its first and final readings at the May 25 meeting.
To see the full staff report visit bransonmo.gov; click on the ‘Government’ tab; click on ‘Agendas & Minutes’; and select the May 25 board of aldermen meeting option. To view the full discussion click on the ‘Live Stream’ option at bransonmo.gov or go straight to the city’s YouTube page ‘CityofBranson.’ To view the city of Branson’s Municipal Code and its “smoke-free” rules, click on ‘Municipal Code’ at the bottom of the home page at bransonmo.gov.