Mar­i­juana fa­cil­i­ties reg­u­la­tions pro­posed

Record Observer - - Front Page - By CHRISTO­PHER KERSEY ck­ersey@ches­pub.com

— The Queen Anne’s County Com­mis­sion­ers in­tro­duced leg­is­la­tion on Tues­day, Jan. 31, that reg­u­lates the place­ment of med­i­cal mar­i­juana grow­ing, pro­cess­ing and dis­pen­sary fa­cil­i­ties in the county.

In the form of amend­ments to the zon­ing or­di­nance, the pro­posal now heads to the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion for re­view and will come back to the five county

com­mis­sion­ers for a vote.

Since the pro­posal is “emer­gency leg­is­la­tion,” it would have to pass the com­mis­sion­ers by at least four votes to take ef­fect im­me­di­ately. If only three com­mis­sion­ers ap­prove it, it takes ef­fect in 45 days. Less than three yes votes means it fails.

If the zon­ing or­di­nance is amended as pro­posed, Hip­po­cratic Growth couldn’t lo­cate a dis­pen­sar y at 101 Drum­mer Drive in Grasonville as the com­pany has pro­posed be­cause it wouldn’t meet the pro­posed reg­u­la­tions.

Stephen Z. Mee­han, an at­tor­ney and a prin­ci­pal of Hip­po­cratic Growth, made a pre­sen­ta­tion be­fore the com­mis­sion­ers de­fend­ing his com­pany’s right to es­tab­lish the dis­pen­sar y.

In re­ac­tion to the com­mis­sion­ers’s de­ci­sion, he said, “It’s a shame the com­mis­sion­ers waited so long to take any ac­tion, and now with their mora­to­rium, it’s highly un­likely a med­i­cal cannabis dis­pen­sary will be open with­out the courts’ ac­tion.”

Dur­ing his pre­sen­ta­tion, Mee­han ar­gued that the state le­gal­ized med­i­cal mar­i­juana and it pre-empts the county from reg­u­lat­ing it. The pro­posed zon­ing amend­ments are il­le­gal and would be re­versed in court, he said.

The Mar yland Med­i­cal Cannabis Com­mis­sion has pre-ap­proved Hip­po­cratic Growth to lo­cate a dis­pen­sary in state Sen­a­to­rial District 36, which in­cludes Queen Anne’s County. The com­pany has a year to open the fa­cil­ity, end­ing on Dec. 9 of this year.

As pro­posed in the zon­ing amend­ments, a dis­pen­sary would be al­lowed as a con­di­tional use in the Ur­ban Com­mer­cial zon­ing district and the Grasonville Gate­way and Med­i­cal Cen­ter zon­ing district.

A pro­cess­ing fa­cil­ity would be al­lowed as a con­di­tional use in the Light In­dus­trial High­way Ser vice, Sub­ur­ban Com­mer­cial, and Sub­ur­ban In­dus­trial zon­ing dis­tricts. Grow­ing mar­i­juana for med­i­cal pur­poses would be a con­di­tional use in the Agri­cul­ture zon­ing district.

Be­sides the lim­ited the mar­i­juana op­er­a­tions to zon­ing dis­tricts, a mar­i­juana pro­cess­ing fa­cil­ity or dis­pen­sary must be at least 1,000 feet from any non­profit in­sti­tu­tion and may be lo­cated on a prop­erty within the Ur­ban Com­mer­cial district pro­vided the site doesn’t abut any prop­erty with an ex­ist­ing res­i­den­tial use.

Be­sides in­tro­duc­ing the leg­is­la­tion, the com­mis­sion­ers also unan­i­mously ap­proved a res­o­lu­tion stat­ing, “The com­mis­sion­ers do not sup­port the es­tab­lish­ment of med­i­cal mar­i­juana fa­cil­i­ties in Queen Anne’s County, but may be pro­hib­ited by state law from ban­ning them com­pletely.”

The res­o­lu­tion also says the com­mis­sion­ers “be­lieve a cau­tious ap­proach to the land use im­pli­ca­tions of li­censed med­i­cal mar­i­juana pro­cess­ing and dis­pens­ing fa­cil­i­ties is pru­dent.”

Fur­ther, the res­o­lu­tion di­rects the county’s Depart­ment of Plan­ning and Zon­ing to ob­tain and study all doc­u­men­ta­tion, plans and stud­ies sub­mit­ted to the Mary­land Med­i­cal Cannabis Com­mis­sion by the ap­pli­cants in­ter­est- ed in lo­cat­ing in Queen Anne’s County.

Also, the same depart­ment is asked in the res­o­lu­tion to “re­frain from is­su­ing any zon­ing ap­provals or state­ments re­gard­ing the per­mis­si­bil­ity of med­i­cal mar­i­juana pro­cess­ing and dis­pens­ing fa­cil­i­ties, pend­ing the is­suance of a re­port by the depart­ment on the land im­pli­ca­tions of such fa­cil­i­ties in Queen Anne’s County.”

The county depart­ment’s re­port should be sub­mit­ted to the mar­i­juana com­mis­sion on or be­fore Oct. 1 of this year.

When dis­cussing the or­di­nance pro­posal, County Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Steve Wil­son said he wasn’t fin­ished do­ing his “home­work” about the is­sue, but he said the com­mis­sion has duty to the “health and safety” of the pub­lic.

Com­mis­sioner Jim Mo­ran said he was wor­ried that the fa­cil­ity pro­posed in Grasonville would even­tu­ally sell recre­ational mar­i­juana and he was con­cerned about the drug prob­lem in the county.

“My con­cern is the lo­ca­tion of the [dis­pen­sary pro­posed in Grasonville]. It’s right next to homes,” said Com­mis­sioner Robert Buckey.

Com­mis­sioner Jack Wil­son said, “My worry is three years from now, I don’t want to see recre­ational mar­i­juana in Queen Anne’s County.”

Dur­ing the com­mis­sion­ers’ meet­ing, about 50 peo­ple packed the room with most op­pos­ing the mar­i­juana op­er­a­tions com­ing to Queen Anne’s County.

Many res­i­dents felt the state leg­is­la­ture will le­gal­ize recre­ational mar­i­juana which will be sold at the dis­pen­sary now per­mit­ted to sell med­i­cal mar­i­juana. They feared the prob­lems hap­pen­ing in Colorado where recre­ational mar­i­juana is le­gal would come to Queen Anne’s County.

Some res­i­dents said they ap­proved of how the com­mis­sion­ers were han­dling the is­sue. “I think we have a good Plan­ning and Zon­ing Depart­ment. I’m in fa­vor of what you are do­ing,” said one man.

A nurse prac­ti­tioner who works in Eas­ton said she has ad­mit­ted 400 peo­ple to the hospi­tal over an 18-month pe­riod, pri­mar­ily for opi­ate abuse, and only 10 of them didn’t smoke mar­i­juana. “Mar­i­juana is a gate­way drug,” she said.

She said there’s no way med­i­cal mar­i­juana can be reg­u­lated for dose or po­tency and mar­i­juana can cause many med­i­cal prob­lems such as anx­i­ety and panic at­tacks. Mar­i­juana can cause heart at­tacks, she said.

One per­son in fa­vor of med­i­cal mar­i­juana was Tammy Saun­ders of Queen­stown. She told the com­mis­sion­ers that doc­tors at John Hop­kins Hospi­tal agree that med­i­cal mar­i­juana would help her with her mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis. She has a bruise the size of an egg plant on her leg and some­times on her back.

Queen Anne’s County Sher­iff Gary Hof­mann said he wasn’t for or against med­i­cal mar­i­juana. The county is in the midst of an “opi­ate epi­demic” and “there’s al­ways the po­ten­tial for abuse.” He agreed that the dis­pen­sar y shouldn’t be near a school, church or res­i­den­tial area.

Kevin Water­man, a lo­cal Re­al­tor, also spoke. He rep­re­sents the Grasonville site where the dis­pen­sary is pro­posed. He said it’s wrong for the zon­ing to tar­get in­di­vid­ual uses and the zon­ing should rather ap­ply to an en­tire class.

PHOTO BY CHRISTO­PHER KERSEY

Stephen Mee­han, stand­ing, makes a pre­sen­ta­tion be­fore the Queen Anne’s County Com­mis­sion­ers about Hip­po­cratic Growth’s pro­posed med­i­cal mar­i­juana dis­pen­sary. Mee­han is an at­tor­ney and a prin­ci­pal of the Hip­po­cratic Growth com­pany.

PHOTO BY CHRISTO­PHER KERSEY

Stan Kosick, se­nior plan­ner with Queen Anne’s County, stand­ing, showed a Pow­erPoint pre­sen­ta­tion about pro­posed reg­u­la­tions for the place­ment of med­i­cal mar­i­juana op­er­a­tions in the county. He made the pre­sen­ta­tion be­fore the county com­mis­sion­ers on Tues­day, Jan. 31.

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