Planners OK zoning amendments for marijuana facilities
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.
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.