MD: Commissioners Reconsider Cannabis Zoning

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After being advised that the county’s proposed zoning amendments related to medical cannabis would likely violate state law, the Board of Commissioners indicated Thursday that it would make changes to the amendments to ease some of the restrictions on growing, processing and distributing the product.

Growers licensed by the state of Maryland will have one year to begin producing the product or risk losing their approval, according to state guidelines.

Under the current zoning amendment, growing and processing medical cannabis would be a conditional use in the county’s industrial zones, meaning it would require special approval by the county. Dispensing would be considered an accessory use, requiring dispensers to link with a grower or processor to share space or else obtain two licenses from the state, one for dispensing and another for growing or processing.

Since conditional uses require special zoning approvals, approvals that can sometimes take a long time to acquire, the board said it had been advised that the amendment as it is currently proposed may make it nearly impossible for a grower to obtain county permission and begin output ahead of the state deadline, creating an effective roadblock for potential growers in Carroll County.

Already, those looking to get into the medical cannabis business in Maryland face a series of rigorous legal and financial hurdles. In order to get state approval to operate, growers must pay a $2,000 fee for a Stage 1 application. After pre-approvals are granted, entities face more fees as well as multiple inspections before they can receive their final license and begin operating.

If those given Stage 1 pre-approval are not operational within one year of the pre-approval, the state can revoke the approval, according to guidelines set by the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission.

Members of the Board of Commissioners elected not to send the amendments back for redrafting ahead of a public hearing scheduled for Aug. 11. They said they expect the issue to be raised at the hearing on the proposed amendments, after which time they indicated they will change the amendment to allow growing and processing as a principal use in industrial zones and dispensing as a conditional use, an action that could speed up the process for those looking to operate in Carroll.

Holding the public hearing on the amendments in their current form, Commissioner Stephen Wantz said, will allow the county to avoid slowing down the process by sending the amendments back to the Planning and Zoning Commission to be redrafted. As long as the issue is raised at the Aug. 11 meeting, staff said, the changes can be made to the amendments before they are approved.

“If we don’t [go forward with the hearing] then we may slow it down in a way in which we didn’t want to do in the first place,” Wantz said.

The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission has said it expects to award Stage 1 license preapprovals to growers and processors this month. Patients are predicted to be able to access medical cannabis in 2017.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Commissioners Reconsider Cannabis Zoning
Author: Heather Norris
Contact: 410-848-4400
Photo Credit: Wilson Criscione
Website: Carroll County Times