Marijuana facilities regulations proposed
— 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.
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.
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.