MD: Give Cannabis Zoning Another Look

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On Thursday, the Carroll County Board of Commissioners are scheduled to continue deliberating and possibly vote on zoning proposals that will affect where growers, processors and dispensers of medical cannabis will be allowed to operate.

The decision is potentially more important than it was just a few weeks ago, because on Aug. 15 we learned that the state’s Medical Cannabis Commission has tentatively approved Maryland Compassionate Care and Wellness LLC to both grow and process medical cannabis in Carroll County. Fourteen other licensees were given tentative approval to grow and process the drug in other areas of the state.

Until then, it wasn’t clear whether Carroll would actually be home to such facilities. While licensing still requires final approval from the state, the reality of cannabis being grown and processed here are far more likely with this announcement.

On Aug. 11, at a public hearing on the zoning amendments, the commissioners received push back from several supporters of medical cannabis questioning the specifics of the proposal, including limiting growers and processors to industrial zoned areas rather than those zoned agricultural; that growing and processing being considered conditional uses requiring a hearing before the Board of Zoning Appeals; and that dispensaries be considered accessory uses to a growing or processing facility.

While we still think limiting the growing and processing facilities to industrial zoned areas rather than agricultural is the right call. Even though it’s a plant, medical cannabis is typically grown indoors under specific, sometimes high-tech, conditions under lock and key, not outdoors like a field of corn or soybeans.

But we do think two other pieces of the proposed zoning amendments should be changed in order to make sure patients in pain who need access to medical cannabis can get it sooner than later.

In particular, we think valid concerns have been raised that requiring a conditional use could hinder grower and processors ability to meet deadlines set up by the state to be fully operational and so that medical cannabis is available to patients by 2017. At the Aug. 11 meeting, even Commissioners Richard Rothschild and Dennis Frazier – who have been diametrically opposed on seemingly everything since taking office – agreed growing and processing cannabis should be a principal permitted use.

We also think the commissioners should reconsider making dispensaries an accessory use. While we thought one person who testified at the public hearing was a bit dramatic saying she would fear for her safety if she had go to an industrial zoned area to get medical cannabis, there are other reasons not to move forward with this amendment.

Knowing that both the grower and processor licenses for Carroll are likely going to the same company, it would also seemingly give that company a monopoly on dispensing medical cannabis. If the state, which hasn’t determined who is going to receive dispensary licenses at this time, were to pick another company, it would make it quite difficult for those companies to operate without some sort of agreement with Maryland Compassionate Care and Wellness.

The county could still keep dispensaries away from downtowns, schools and other places where it doesn’t think it would fit in, while also making medical cannabis dispensaries a principal use in industrial zones not tied to other cannabis facilities.

Some commissioners need to remember we’re talking about medical cannabis, and not opening head shops on every corner of the county. Limiting growing and processing operations to industrial areas is fine, but other onerous amendments that may keep patients from gaining access to pain relief aren’t.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Give Cannabis Zoning Another Look
Author: Staff
Contact: 410-848-4400
Photo Credit: AP
Website: Carroll County Times