County sued over marijuana dispensary
CENTREVILLE — Hippocratic Growth and two other companies have filed a lawsuit against the Queen Anne’s County Commissioners ask- ing the Circuit Court to allow a medical marijuana dispensary at 101 Drummer Drive, Grasonville.
The lawsuit seeks $1
million in compensatory damages from the county and paid to the plaintiffs, including Hippocratic Growth, another company which owns property, and an organization called 101 Drummer Drive.
The company, 111 Scher Lane LLC, is the current owner of the Drummer Drive property, and that company has entered into a contract of sale with the company 101 Drummer Drive LLC, that, after owning the property, would lease it to Hippocratic Growth to operate the dispensary.
Hippocratic Growth and the other plaintiffs filed the suit Feb. 2, asking Queen Anne’s County Circuit Court to instruct county government to “issue a written verification” that a medical marijuana dispensary is a permitted use in the Urban Commercial zoning district, which is where the dispensary is proposed.
Filing the lawsuit doesn’t stop the county from adopting amendments to the zoning ordinance to regulate marijuana facilities. As proposed by the amendments, a medical marijuana dispensary would be allowed in some zoning districts, but with restrictions.
In the case of the Grasonville proposed dispensary, it wouldn’t be allowed under the new regulations because the dispensary would fall within 100 feet of a residential dwelling and abuts an existing residential use, according to Michael Wisnosky, director of county Planning and Zoning.
The County Commissioners have introduced the legislation about the proposed amendments to the zoning ordinance. It’s now up to the Planning Commission to review the amendments and then return the proposal back to the County Commissioners for consideration.
At the meeting on Jan. 31, several commissioners and members of the public said they feared the state legislature will legalize recreational marijuana and it would be sold at the Grasonville site.
When contacted for comment on Monday, Feb. 6, Commission President Steve Wilson said, “I do have a concern that a facility remains open over time, it [will] morph from a quiet dispensary ... into something different. This will happen as the number of prescriptions grow. The facility begins to affect the neighborhood around it.”
Vanessa Lyon, spokesman for the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, said, “According to regulations, an entity seeking licensure with the commission as a grower, processor, or a dispensary is required to meet all local zoning and planning requirements.”
According to the lawsuit, the county zoning staff on Aug. 26, 2015, told Hippocratic Growth’s lawyer that a “medical cannabis dispensary would be treated as a retail establishment, similar to convenience and drug stores.”
Wisnosky declined to comment on that allegation.
This past December, the marijuana commission notified Hippocratic Growth that it was awarded preliminary licensing approval and the commission’s one-year deadline to complete stage two licensing commenced, ending next December.
Hippocratic Growth has spent time and resources in “reliance of the defendants’ position that the dispensary location was properly zoned for a medical cannabis dispensary” to meet the marijuana commission’s deadline.
The county has a legal duty to act and has failed to act for over 15 months, said the lawsuit, and then on Jan. 31 of this year, the county commissioners passed a resolution “effectively prohibiting any further zoning or permit requests related to medical cannabis facilities ,” including the proposed dispensary.
The resolution calls for county staff to contact the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission and to obtain and study all documentation related to applicants interested in locating in Queen Anne’s County.
In addition, the resolution asks the county staff 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 planning staff on the land use implications of such facilities in Queen Anne’s County.
The planning department should submit this report to the marijuana commission by Oct. 1.
The lawsuit says the resolution was adopted without complying with statutory procedural requirements in the county ordinance and created a prohibition on county planning staff acting on Hippocratic Growth’s request for a zoning verification and Hippocratic Growth’s building permit application.
According to the lawsuit, Hippocratic Growth and the property owner where the dispensary is proposed have been harmed and the county is interfering with the implementation of the Maryland medical cannabis program authorized by state law.
County attorney Patrick Thompson declined to comment on the suit. But he did say a hearing is scheduled on Feb. 27 and the judge could grant a temporary restraining order to issue the letter Hippocratic Growth wants or rule the resolution is not legal, or dismiss the case.
A marijuana dispensary has been considered for this site at 101 Drummer Drive in Grasonville.