Plan­ners OK zon­ing amend­ments for mar­i­juana fa­cil­i­ties

Record Observer - - News - By CHRISTO­PHER KERSEY ck­ersey@ches­pub.com

CEN­TRE­VILLE — The Queen Anne’s County Plan­ning Com­mis­sion has given its bless­ing to amend­ments to the zon­ing ordinance that reg­u­late where med­i­cal mar­i­juana grow­ing, pro­cess­ing and dis­pens­ing op­er­a­tions can be lo­cated in the county.

The pro­posal now heads to the county com­mis­sion­ers for ac­tion.

If fi­nally ap­proved by the county com­mis­sion­ers, the reg­u­la­tions would al­low the med­i­cal mar­i­juana dis­pen­saries in cer­tain zon­ing districts with re­stric­tions such as dis­tance re­quire­ments from homes, schools or churches.

The Hip­po­cratic Growth com­pany has pro­posed putting a dis­pen­sary at 101 Drum­mer Drive in Gra­sonville, but the re­stric­tions, if ap­proved, won’t al­low it be­cause the prop­erty abuts an ex­ist­ing res­i­den­tial use and isn’t at least 100 feet from a res­i­den­tial dwelling.

Stephen Mee­han, prin­ci­pal of Hip­po­cratic Growth, ap­peared be­fore the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion and op­posed the reg­u­la­tions. He said didn’t un­der­stand why the re­stric­tions on dis­tance from homes. The dis­pen­sary build­ing needs to be free-stand­ing, he said, and it can’t be in a shop­ping cen­ter be­cause there’s no way to con­trol what hap­pens on the roof.

If the dis­pen­sary re­quires a con­di­tional use, said Mee­han, there will be a lot emo­tion about it when it’s not an emo­tional is­sue. “It should be treated as a phar­macy,” he said.

Queen Anne’s County Plan­ning Di­rec­tor Michael Wis­nosky dis­agreed. When peo­ple go to a phar­macy, they don’t need a card and put money into a ma­chine like the dis­pen­sary. “To compare it to a phar­macy is not cor­rect,” he said.

Kevin Water­man, the list­ing real es­tate agent for the Gra­sonville prop­erty, also com­mented. “What is be­ing done here is no dif­fer­ent than a phar­macy.”

Plan­ning Com­mis­sion­ers unan­i­mously rec­om­mended ap­proval of the amend­ments to the zon­ing ordinance, but with­out the sig­nage re­quire­ments the staff had rec­om­mended.

Ac­cord­ing to Mee­han, who is an at­tor­ney, the county can’t use reg­u­la­tions to de­ter­mine who gets what size signs be­cause it’s a free speech is­sue. The com­mis­sion’s own at­tor­ney said Mee­han may be right.

Af­ter the com­mis­sion ap­proved the reg­u­la­tions, Plan­ning Com­mis­sion Chair­man John Perkins pre­ferred to quote the staff re­port, which said, in part, that “the pro­posed changes to Chap­ter 18 ap­pear to ac­com­mo­date the pro­tec­tion of the health, safety and wel­fare of the cit­i­zens of Queen Anne’s County while al­low­ing the county to com­ply with state law.”

Plan­ning Com­mis­sion mem­ber Sharon Dob­son said, “They asked us to look at the health and the wel­fare for the county. I think [the pro­posal] is look­ing out for the peo­ple’s well-be­ing. We have to deal with the state. We have to deal with as min­i­mal dam­age as we can.”

The pro­posed zon­ing amend­ments im­pose re­stric­tions on the lo­ca­tions of med­i­cal mar­i­juana dis­pen­saries. A dis­pen­sary can’t abut a prop­erty with a res­i­den­tial use, must be lo­cated at least 1,000 feet from any pub­lic or pri­vate church, day­care, school, or cor­rec­tional fa­cil­ity.

Ad­di­tion­ally, a dis­pen­sary must be lo­cated on prop­erty at least 100 feet away from any res­i­den­tial dwelling, be lo­cated more than 2,500 feet from an­other dis­pen­sary, and can’t have an on-site doc­tor for the pur­pose of is­su­ing writ­ten cer­ti­fi­ca­tions for med­i­cal mar­i­juana.

The reg­u­la­tions al­low the mar­i­juana fa­cil­i­ties as a con­di­tional use on prop­er­ties in cer­tain zon­ing districts as fol­lows:

• A mar­i­juana dis­pen­sary is al­lowed in the Gra­sonville gate­way and med­i­cal cen­ter district, but with re­stric­tions.

• Grow­ing mar­i­juana is al­lowed in the agri­cul­tural zon­ing district, but the use can’t be lo­cated within 1,000 feet of any in­sti­tu­tional use. If pro­posed in the crit­i­cal area, the clas­si­fi­ca­tion of the prop­erty will be in­tensely de­vel­oped area.

• Mar­i­juana pro­cess­ing is al­lowed in the sub­ur­ban com­mer­cial district and the sub­ur­ban in­dus­trial district, but it can’t be within 1,000 feet of any in­sti­tu­tional use. If pro­posed in the crit­i­cal area, the clas­si­fi­ca­tion of the prop­erty will be in­tensely de­vel­oped area.

• Mar­i­juana pro­cess­ing is al­lowed in the light in­dus­trial high­way ser­vice district and sub­ur­ban in­dus­trial busi­ness em­ploy­ment district, but with re­stric­tions.

• In the ur­ban com­mer­cial district, a mar­i­juana dis­pen­sary and pro­cess­ing is al­lowed, but with re­stric­tions.

• In gen­eral, a mar­i­juana grower must be lo­cated on a prop­erty that’s at least 20 acres or more, must not be lo­cated within 1,000 feet of any pub­lic or pri­vate day care or school. If pro­posed in the crit­i­cal area, the clas­si­fi­ca­tion will be in­tensely de­vel­oped area.

PHOTO BY CHRISTO­PHER KERSEY

Stephen Mee­han, prin­ci­pal of Hip­po­cratic Growth, seated right, ap­pears be­fore the Queen Anne’s County Plan­ning Com­mis­sion on Feb. 9. His com­pany plans to lo­cate a mar­i­juana dis­pen­sary in Gra­sonville. The Plan­ning Com­mis­sion rec­om­mended ap­proval of zon­ing ordinance amend­ments, which wouldn’t al­low the dis­pen­sary at that lo­ca­tion.

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