PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Many small towns in South Dakota don’t have zoning regulations, and their leaders are now asking the Legislature where they should allow medical marijuana facilities, in case any of those businesses want to be licensed in their communities.

The Senate Local Government Committee took a step in providing some direction and protection to those smaller locales Friday. The panel endorsed legislation that would let an unzoned municipality prohibit the location of a medical cannabis establishment in a sensitive land use area.

The bill from the South Dakota Municipal League says a sensitive land use area includes churches, schools, day cares, public service and recreational facilities, places frequented by people younger than age 21, and parks.

“Common sense legislation,” remarked Senator Joshua Klumb, R-Mitchell. The committee’s 6-0 vote moved the bill to the full Senate for debate, possibly as early as Monday afternoon.

The bill also lets an unzoned municipality establish “reasonable setbacks” and says a “minimum distance” between cannabis establishments may be required but doesn’t define those distances.

“It’s made for municipalities that haven’t currently made their zoning ordinances. It will allow them some flexibility,” said Senator Mike Rohl, R-Aberdeen, its prime sponsor.

The first legal sales of medical marijuana under the state government’s new program will start later this year, while the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe began selling from its dispensary last year.

Yvonne Taylor, the municipal league’s executive director, said the passage of IM 26 legalizing medical marijuana two years ago allowed municipalities to regulate the time, place and manner of operation for cannabis facilities.

“Mostly you would do that through a zoning ordinance, the place of operation specifically. You would do that through your zoning ordinance to make sure that business fit the surrounding area,” Taylor said.

“We have a lot of towns that don’t have zoning. They’ve never adopted zoning ordinances. They just don’t do it that way,” she continued. “All this bill does is say that, for the purposes of the medical marijuana establishments, those towns that don’t have zoning can do what the law says they can do — and it gives them just some kind of legal cover for effectively zoning without a zoning ordinance.”

Taylor told the committee she didn’t know how many communities didn’t have zoning for cannabis establishments. She said they could find out the ones that have.

“To be honest, most towns are probably not going to see a medical (marijuana) establishment. Our other concerns are when we convert, if we convert, to recreational — you’ll see it more in the smaller towns,” Taylor said.