Fenwick Committee Advances Marijuana Facilities Ban

Fenwick Committee Advances Marijuana Facilities Ban
Photo by Bethany Hooper

FENWICK ISLAND – An ordinance banning the operation of marijuana facilities will advance to the Fenwick Island Town Council with a favorable recommendation.

Last Thursday, the Fenwick Island Charter and Ordinance Committee voted unanimously to forward an ordinance banning the operation of marijuana manufacturing, testing or retail facilities to the town council with a favorable recommendation.

Mayor Natalie Magdeburger, committee chair, said the draft ordinance follows state statute and exercises a town’s ability to ban sales within the corporate limits of Fenwick Island.

“We will put this on the agenda for the October 27 town council meeting and recommend council accept this as a first reading …,” she said. “It will take the effect of law at that moment, and we will propose a second reading at the December meeting.”

Last year, the topic of recreational marijuana was referred to the town’s charter and ordinance committee for review. With new laws legalizing recreational marijuana now in effect, the committee in recent months began exploring the town’s options for banning sales.

Magdeburger told committee members last week she and the city solicitor had been tasked with drafting an ordinance banning marijuana production, testing and sales in town. When asked if the ban would apply to existing businesses, Magdeburger said it would.

“It does not permit to operate or sell cannabis in any of our retail establishments,” she replied.

Councilwoman Jacque Napolitano applauded the ban. She said it addresses concerns raised my members of the community.

“This is a family oriented area, and I don’t think our residents and community want this,” she said. “This isn’t against businesses, but it’s what the community is going for and I think we heard them loud and clear on this issue.”

Committee member Ben Waide agreed.

“I think the issue I had at the time is you don’t want to be the only beach town to allow the sale cannabis, which I believe we are right now,” he said. “So I am firmly for this as written.”

Magdeburger noted that the ban would only apply to the corporate limits of Fenwick Island. She said marijuana sales in neighboring jurisdictions could still impact the town.

“We have a big portion of Route 1 that is incorporated, but there is a section of Route 1 that falls within Sussex County rules. And state statute does not authorize counties to limit the sale of marijuana …,” she explained. “We will exercise our rights, but understand from Atlantic Street to the state line, it is not under our jurisdiction.”

Committee member Roy Williams said that issue was out of the town’s control.

“There’s nothing you can do about it,” he said. “We just have to take care of our one square mile here.”

Councilwoman Janice Bortner said she had learned other municipalities were working with Sussex County to try to establish sales bans within a certain radius of corporate limits. Magdeburger, however, said she had reached out to other municipalities and that those mayors were unaware of those efforts.

“The statute itself charges and provides authority for municipalities, but in that same section does not give that authority to the counties …,” she added. “It appears from a statute interpretation it creates a preemption issue.”

For his part, committee member John Nason applauded Magdeburger and City Solicitor Luke Mette for drafting the ordinance.

“You and Luke have done a masterful job of maximizing the exclusion of cannabis by tracking state statute …,” he said. “You’ve done it very well.”

After further discussion, the committee voted unanimously to forward an ordinance banning marijuana manufacturing, testing and sales to the town council with a favorable recommendation. Officials say no public hearing is needed on the proposed ordinance.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.