Commissioners Approve Cannabis Legislation

Commissioners Approve Cannabis Legislation
A map provided by Worcester County staff shows existing cannabis dispensaries. Submitted image

SNOW HILL– County officials approved emergency legislation regulating cannabis establishments this week.

On Tuesday, the Worcester County Commissioners approved legislation amending the Public Health Article to establish regulations for certain cannabis establishments. Commissioner Joe Mitrecic said the regulations needed to be in place before the state began issuing new business licenses.

“It’s coming and we want to be prepared when it gets here,” he said in an interview.

Following statewide cannabis changes, Jennifer Keener, the county’s director of development review and permitting, approached the commissioners this summer seeking guidance regarding the county’s zoning approach to cannabis. Last month, the commissioners made it clear they wanted larger separation distances than those permitted by the state.

Keener used the commissioners’ input and worked with the county attorney to draft a bill addressing cannabis establishments. She presented it Tuesday and said she’d also provided them with a map showing the distances between the two existing dispensaries and local schools and childcare facilities.

The ordinance presented includes provisions for dispensaries permitted after July 1, 2023, that requires them to maintain a minimum separation distance of 2,000 feet from a pre-existing primary or secondary school, a licensed childcare center, a playground, recreation center, library or public park, and from other licensed dispensaries.

The bill prohibits on-site consumption establishments.

“It’s both in a standard bill and an emergency bill depending on which action you want to take today,” Keener said. “I’ve also included information we received as far as the distances between schools and other establishments in there in a chart so you can see how our current dispensaries play in to the distance regulations in map format as well as information received from the Maryland Cannabis Administration on their intentions for licenses in this upcoming cycle. We are expected to receive one dispensary and the eastern region, which we are in, will receive a number of growers and processors as well as micro licenses.”

The commissioners voted unanimously to introduce the proposed ordinance as emergency legislation. Emergency legislation, which requires at least a 6/7 commissioner vote, takes effect on the date of its passage.