Medical cannabis hearing held
CENTREVILLE — The Queen Anne’s County Commissioners have rescinded Resolution 17-06 that charged the county’s Department of Planning and Zoning to study documentation, plans and studies a medical cannabis company submits to the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission to determine its land use implications.
The resolution was withdrawn during a Tuesday,
March 28, county commission meeting at the suggestion of the county’s attorney, County Administrator Gregg Todd said. Todd said the recommendation came because the county is involved in a lawsuit with Hippocratic Growth LLC.
Company representatives claimed during a public hearing later in the meeting the county rushed through emergency zoning legislation to block it from operating a medical cannabis facility in the county.
Because the state passed legislation in May 2015 allowing growing, processing and dispensing of medical cannabis, even if a county was unsupportive of that action it “may be prohibited by State law from banning them completely,” the resolution stated. In December, the state issued pre-approval notices to medical cannabis companies, one of which wanted to move to Queen Anne’s County, it stated.
“The County Commissioners are unable to fully assess the effect of licensed medical marijuana processing and dispensing facilities upon the health, safety, and welfare of the Queen Anne’s County citizens without full access to completed applications for final licensing approval,” the resolution stated.
During the meeting, a public hearing was held regarding County Ordinance 17-06 that determines zoning districts appropriate for growing, processing and dispensing medical cannabis as a conditional use. The ordinance states no licensed growing and processing facility can be within 1,000 feet of any institutional, school, church or municipal usage in multiple zoning districts.
The ordinance, introduced on Jan 31, delves into conditional uses, such as a licensed dispensary shall not abut any property with residential usage, as well as adds definitions to Chapter 18 of the Code of Public Local Laws.
Patrick Thompson, the county’s attorney, said the Planning Commission made a favorable recommendation on the ordinance.
During the hearing, Ashley Colen of Hippocratic Growth said the passage of this “proposed emergency legislation” was created to prevent one company from moving forward with its business in Grasonville, and said alternative options in the area are not fiscally viable because of the amount of structural work needed for security purposes, she said.
Colen said some landlords were not willing to rent space “for fear of retribution from the commission and/or planning and zoning.”
An acceptable location for a Suboxone or methadone clinic, Colen said medical cannabis patients are view unfairly. “We should not stigmatize the patients who are suffering and seeking alternative treatments, nor should we harbor such an inhospitable environment for potential businesses,” she said.
Colen said altering legislation on a “premature and uneducated judgment based on stigma or unsubstantiated fears of recreational cannabis” was dangerous.
Paige Colen of Hippocratic Growth said the commissioners had not done enough research on the subject to educate themselves in the field of medical cannabis before proposing the “emergency legislation.”
“In just the last 56 days,” referencing the day count since the ordinance was proposed, “progress has been made on global, federal and state levels,” she said.
Colen referenced the National Cancer Institute’s Health division in a study that showed shrinkage of tumors and inhibiting cell growth from medical cannabis use. She said the Drug Enforcement Administration removed 25 factually inaccurate statements from its website about cannabis, such as it being a gateway drug, use leading to cognitive decline and lung cancer, she said.
“When lawmakers and/ or law enforcement make decisions based on biased and out of date information it does a tremendous disservice to their community, and to knowingly disseminate such information is a violation of the Information Quality Act,” Colen said.
Paige Colen said the commission had increased “fearmongering” and created an unwelcoming environment for state-sanctioned businesses.
“You stated at the meeting 56 days ago that you had not done the appropriate amount of research before proposing this emergency legislation,” she said. “If you don’t know what you’re exactly protecting the people from, then how can you effectively protect them?”
Board of Appeals member Kenny Scott cautioned that some areas of the ordinance were not clear regarding distances. He said if the ordinance came before his board the group would have to make determinations on what the commission’s thoughts were, such as does 1,000 feet from a school start from the property lines or from door to door.
To read Ordinance 17-06 in its entirety, visits www.qac. org and search “ordinances.”
Ashley Colen of Hippocratic Growth LLC speaks out against proposed ordinance 17-06 during the Queen Anne’s County Commission meeting on Tuesday, March 28.