Growing medical marijuana in Anne Arundel County is closer to becoming a reality. But the county’s zoning code first needs a change to clear a hurdle officials say they didn’t intend to create.

County Council members will take up a bill Monday night that proposes to alter a distance restriction for medical marijuana growers and processors operating on rural land.

The change would clear the way for ForwardGro, a medical cannabis growing company that has been awarded a state license, to locate a greenhouse in southern Anne Arundel County.

The General Assembly authorized medical marijuana in Maryland in 2014, and County Council members passed standards governing the growing, processing and dispensing of medical marijuana last December after months of debate. Local regulations require medical cannabis companies to maintain 24/7 security and to be located more than 1,000 feet from homes and school board-owned property.

Under Council Bill 77-16, growing and processing businesses located on land zoned rural agricultural, or RA, would not need to adhere to the distance requirement from homes.

Councilman Pete Smith, a Severn Democrat who is sponsoring the legislation, said the change aligns with the council’s intent when it passed last year’s medical cannabis regulations, which direct growing and processing toward south county where there is more open space. At the time, he sponsored amendments to create 1,000-foot setbacks from a grower or processor’s property line in order to keep those businesses at a distance from homes and schools in denser parts of the county.

“Up north, I didn’t want growers and processors to be able to (operate) around schools, so there was this language that honed into allowing those buffers,” he said. “We weren’t really trying to do that in south county, because there is much more space – and if you have a grower down there on a 100-acre farm obviously they have much more space.”

In Lothian, where ForwardGro plans to grow medical cannabis in greenhouses on a property at 5000 Sands Road, there are several dwellings located within 1,000 feet of the company’s proposed growing site, according to a letter from County Auditor Jodee Dickinson.

Councilman Jerry Walker, R-Crofton, said he believes those buildings belong to ForwardGro. He supports the change.

“For me, this is an agricultural product that is being produced. The state already has very restrictive proposals,” he said.

Officials from ForwardGro declined to comment.

Also on Monday, the council will consider Bill 79-16, which would speed up the approval process for selling off county-owned properties deemed “non-buildable,” as part of County Executive Steve Schuh’s ongoing effort to dispose of surplus property.

Currently, the surplus process requires the county to ask all departments and agencies whether the property is needed, let adjacent property owners know of the county’s intent to sell the land, get council approval, obtain either one or two appraisals and advertise the sale in the local paper, among other steps.

The new process would eliminate the need for appraisals, advertising in the local paper and council approval of the terms of disposition. It would also require only the public works and recreation and parks departments to consider whether they would have a future need for the property.

Administration officials said at a work session earlier this month that they intend to use this faster process for small parcels, such as rights-of-way and sites of former wells.

In her letter, Dickinson noted that the legislation does not define “non-buildable” and does not limit the faster surplus process to small lots.

Other measures that will be considered at Monday’s meeting include:

•Resolution 67-16, which registers the council’s support for the Board of Education’s fiscal 2018 school construction capital program.

Bill 71-16, which updates Article I of the county’s charter.

Bill 72-16, which bans spraying pesticide on county playgrounds.

•Bill 75-16, which would allow some forms of composting on rural land. Council members added restrictions to the bill limiting composting operations to 10 acres and banning composting of animal carcasses at their last meeting.

•Bill 78-16, which allows the deferral of utility charges to continue after a foreclosure, tax sale or transfer of title when at least one owner remains the same.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker 420 MAGAZINE ®
Full Article: Council Members To Discuss Tweak To Medical Marijuana Regulations
Author: Amanda Yeager
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