The county Board of Commissioners granted a small victory to medical cannabis advocates Thursday, moving to adjust proposed zoning regulations to allow growing, processing and dispensing as principal permitted uses in industrial zones.
The board had been wrestling with how to deal with the growing, processing and dispensing of cannabis for medical use for more than a year.
In 2013, the Maryland General Assembly approved the use of cannabis for medical use. While guidelines developed by the state dictate much of the regulation the industry will have to comply with, local jurisdictions were left with determining zoning.
In July, the board was briefed on zoning amendments that would have restricted growing and processing of medical cannabis to conditional uses in industrial zones and dispensing to an accessory use in those zones.
Unlike principal permitted uses, conditional uses require a public hearing in front of the county Board of Zoning Appeals before approval can be granted.
After several commissioners initially voiced support for the amendments, the board indicated in early August that it had been advised that, if the amendments passed, the delay the county approval process would cause would be in conflict with a state regulation that stipulates growers, processors and dispensers should be operational within one year of pre-approval.
Board members said Thursday they had determined after speaking recently with officials involved with state regulations that the conditional use classification would not have, in actuality, been in conflict with state guidelines. The one-year stipulation, Planning Director Phil Hager said, means only that companies must obtain their facility and all required permits and comply with state-mandated financial regulations within 12 months of receiving approval, not that they must be fully operational, as commissioners had initially thought.
But the board voted 3-1 on Thursday to classify growing, processing and dispensing as principal permitted uses in industrial zones anyway. Commissioner Doug Howard, R-District 5, was not present at the meeting.
Commissioner Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, who last month indicated he would support moving growing and processing of medical cannabis to a permitted use, voted against the measure on Thursday.
Rothschild said a recent trip he took to Colorado solidified some of his own concerns about the legalization of medical cannabis.
Despite the board’s vote to ease the restriction, Rothschild said residents should feel confident that the county will have very stringent zoning guidelines when it comes to cannabis.
“I think that my colleagues should still be congratulated for a very conservative position on this,” Rothschild said after the motion by Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, to make the change passed.
Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, said he remains frustrated with the process.
“A lot of the jurisdictions are challenged with the decision similar to this,” Wantz said, noting that county officials have spoken with other officials from around the state on the topic in recent weeks.
“We’re getting opinions from every angle,” Wantz said. “The decision didn’t come lightly. Let’s just leave it at that.”
On Aug. 15, the state announced companies granted preliminary approval for growing and processing. In Carroll County, Maryland Compassionate Care and Wellness LLC received one of 15 state preliminary approvals to grow cannabis and one of 15 state preliminary approvals to process it.
As the process progresses, Hager said the board may see more changes at the state level, changes Wantz said could prompt the board to make more changes to the county’s own zoning regulations.
“The landscape on this issue may change further again,” Hager said.
News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Commissioners Vote To Allow Cannabis As Principal Permitted Use
Author: Heather Norris
Contact: Carroll County Times
Photo Credit: Glen Stubbe
Website: Carroll County Times