Prince Frederick, MD – The Calvert County Commissioners indicated during a Tuesday, Oct. 24 work session with Department of Planning and Zoning officials that they remain concerned about discrepancies created by Maryland’s legalization and licensing of medical cannabis and the federal government’s assertion that marijuana remains an illegal drug.

According to a summary provided to the commissioners by the department, “in May of 2013, Maryland established a medical marijuana program. As of December 2016, the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission has awarded 30 licenses to prospective medical marijuana growers/processors and 102 licenses to establish medical marijuana dispensaries. Medical marijuana product is expected to become available to patients in the second half of 2017.”

According to the Federal Controlled Substance Act of 1970, marijuana was classified as a Schedule 1 drug. It was deemed to have no medical use. Currently, 23 states, including Maryland, have statutes recognizing medical marijuana.

Department of Planning and Zoning Director Mark Willis and other staff members were seeking direction from the commissioners about drafting and eventually adopting zoning regulations regarding any medical cannabis enterprise in Calvert. The recommendations presented by the department were: Continue classifying growers and processors of marijuana as an agricultural or industrial use, all uses, including growers, processors, and dispensaries should be permitted by right, with conditions, or by special exception, necessitating Board of Appeals approval and a public hearing; no two like facilities (growers, processors, or dispensaries) shall be located in the same election district; all medical marijuana facilities shall be set back specific distances (No closer than 1000 feet) from like facilities, residential properties, schools, churches, daycares, etc.

“I’m not sure this board is ready to offer any guidelines today,” stated Commissioners’ Vice President Evan K. Slaughenhoupt Jr. [R – District 3]. “We owe you some guidelines.”

When asked, County Attorney John Norris told the board that while the State of Maryland will protect state employees from federal prosecution regarding the facilitating of medical cannabis, the state offers no such protection to local government employees. “I cannot say whether a county employee would be held harmless,” said Norris.

“I don’t know that I would direct Planning and Zoning to break the law,” said Commissioner Mike Hart [R – District 1].

Commissioners’ President Tom Hejl [R – At large] stated that until the federal government amends the measure on the books, marijuana is still classified as an illegal drug.

Willis stated that there is an application for a medical cannabis enterprise in Calvert and that Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh [D] has affirmed that permits are being issued statewide. Willis indicated he was inclined to grant approval to the pending application and wasn’t concerned about going to jail.

Slaughenhoupt, who stated the discrepancy in the status of marijuana was an illustration of the “disconnect” between federal and state governments, indicated that an option might be for the commissioners to deny the application and have the rejected applicant sue the county.

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