Advocates and county officials discussed how counties should zone for medical cannabis facilities and the different approaches taken by counties on December 10 at the 2015 MACo December Winter Conference. The title of the session was “Who What Where of Zoning for Medical Cannabis.”
Maryland Cannabis Industry Association Executive Director Darrell Carrington provided a history of medical cannabis in Maryland, starting with legislation first introduced in 1980 by then Maryland Delegate Wade Kach. Carrell also described the application program, which allows for up to 15 growers statewide, an unlimited number of processors, and up to 2 dispensaries per Maryland Senatorial District. However, he believed the initial number of licenses will be less than what is allowed under state law. Carrington noted that the state has received 1082 applications, mostly from dispensaries and that the state will likely delay initial license awards due to the high number of applications. Carrington also recognized Delegate Dan Morhaim in the audience, who has been a major proponent of medical cannabis in the General Assembly.
Baltimore County Council Member Victoria Almond discussed the zoning legislation she introduced in the County (Bill 61-15) to address medical cannabis facility zoning. Noting that counties are responsible for land use and zoning, she outlined how the County responded to citizen questions and concerns. She stated that the County wanted certainty for both citizens and medical cannabis facilities and to avoid litigation.
Washington County Commissioner and MACo President John Barr found the process to be “informing and innovative.” He noted that unlike Baltimore County, Washington County treated medical cannabis just like any other business and did not require any formal approvals except to establish proper use. Barr stated that the County treated grower facilities as economic development opportunities and all departments (including public relations and the sheriff’s office) participated in thinking about and addressing potential concerns. By following the County’s existing zoning ordinance, Barr noted that medical cannabis facilities must be set back from schools and churches.
Allegany County Commissioner William Valentine moderated the session.