The Carroll County Board of Commissioners heard from nearly a dozen speakers at a Thursday morning public hearing who told them that the county’s proposed restrictions on medical cannabis are unduly restrictive.

Cannabis applicants, advocates and potential patients packed the commissioners’ meeting room to press the board to reconsider a proposed zoning amendment aimed at containing future medical cannabis growers, processors and dispensers in the county.

Under proposed amendments to county zoning law, the growing, processing and dispensing cannabis for medical use would be restricted to industrial zones. If the changes are approved by the Board of Commissioners, growing and processing would be considered conditional uses in industrial zones and dispensing would be an accessory use.

The conditional use designation would require growers and processors to seek Board of Zoning Appeals approval before beginning operating in the county. As an accessory use, dispensaries would have to be attached to a grower or processor, meaning the dispenser would have to also operate a growing or processing facility or else partner with a licensed grower or processor to use space at that site.

Some speakers urged the commissioners to consider allowing growing in agricultural zones.

Speaker Robert Ensor, a Manchester resident, argued that the growing of cannabis is more akin to growing other agricultural products than it is to an industrial operation.

Multiple speakers said the idea of dispensaries being limited to only industrial areas gave them cause for concern.

Others made the argument that the strict zoning regulations could jeopardize some potential businesses’ ability to operate.

Echoing a concern the board discussed at its Aug. 4 meeting, speakers said the time it takes to growers and manufacturers obtain permission for conditional use put licensees outside the deadline required by the state to become fully operational.

Doug Widlake said he owns a building on the 1200 block of New Windsor Road (Md. 31) that is currently under contract to potentially become a growing and processing center.

If everything works out, the company, Pure Hana Synergy, expects to employ as many as 250 people, he said. But the proposed amendments have him worried.

“I think about the patients,” he said.

Beth Morgan, who lives in Towson and works for the Maryland chapter of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws, told the board that she would fear for her safety if she had to travel to an industrial zone to pick up her medication.

Morgan said she suffers from medical conditions that affect her joints and digestive system as well as her cranium stability. As a result, she spends a lot of time in a neck brace that makes it difficult to be aware of her own surroundings and protect herself, she said.

Additionally, if patients must drive long distances to access a dispensary, it could affect their ability to obtain medical cannabis, she said.

“I don’t want to be driving for half-an-hour without or 45 minutes without [my brace],” she said. “It’s inconvenient and, more than that, it’s downright harmful to patients.”

Beth Crook, a current Baltimore resident and executive director of Maryland NORML, said she was considering a move to Carroll County, but was concerned about whether she would be able to access the product.

Medical cannabis, she said, is an alternative to addictive opiates for those who deal with chronic illness and pain.

“But I can’t move into an area that is going to try to restrict my access to my medication so strongly,” she said. “These regulations put additional [pressures] on patients like myself to give us access to medications that we need to get by on a day-to-day basis.”

“As you consider your zoning amendments please consider patients and their ability to receive medicine,” said speaker Stuart McLean.

Despite a push by Commissioners Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, and Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, to switch the conditional use designation for growers and processors to principal permitted use, the board declined to make the change on Thursday, agreeing instead to discuss the possible change, as well as any others, at scheduled deliberations on the issue on Aug. 25.

While Rothschild told the board that the change would be minimal and other decisions, like whether to allow growing in agricultural zones or to permit dispensaries outside of industrial zones, could be dealt with later in the month, other commissioners said they wanted time to consult with other county officials on any potential implications the changes could have.

Commissioners asked to hear from the Sheriff’s Office, Planning and Zoning Commission and the Agricultural Commission for their input on any possible changes to the current proposed amendment.

The board will keep the record open for public comment for 10 more days.

“Because this is such a hot button issue,” said Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, “I think we need to respect that 10-day period.”

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker 420 MAGAZINE ®
Full Article: Commissioners Hear Opposition To Restrictive Cannabis Zoning Amendments
Author: Heather Norris
Contact: 410-848-4400
Photo Credit: John Woodcock
Website: Carroll County Times