SNOW HILL – County officials approved emergency legislation that will govern the locations of future cannabis dispensaries.
The Worcester County Commissioners last week voted unanimously to approve legislation that will require dispensaries 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 commissioners have been working toward the new regulations since statewide cannabis changes were implemented earlier this year. 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. The elected officials 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. When she presented it this fall, she also provided the commissioners 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.
“This Public Health Article bill sets forth the dispensary separation distances we discussed at your September meeting,” she said. “The state automatically opted us in based on state law for certain distances. You recommended to enhance those. So this bill does that. A new dispensary shall maintain a separation distance of 2,000 feet from primary, secondary schools, daycare centers, registered family daycare homes, playgrounds, recreation centers, libraries, public parks and other licensed dispensaries. The bill also establishes a prohibition on on-site cannabis consumption establishments.”
Following a public hearing during which no one commented, the commissioners voted unanimously to approve the bill. As emergency legislation, which requires a 6/7 commissioner vote, the bill takes effect on the date of its passage.