UPPER MARLBORO – The county council tackled several health-related issues before its summer recess. At its July 18 meeting, the Prince George’s County Council passed bills requiring healthy snack options at vending machines at county-owned properties; prohibiting indoor tanning by minors; and amending the zoning rules applicable to medical cannabis dispensaries. The latter measure received […]
UPPER MARLBORO – The county council tackled several health-related issues before its summer recess.
At its July 18 meeting, the Prince George’s County Council passed bills requiring healthy snack options at vending machines at county-owned properties; prohibiting indoor tanning by minors; and amending the zoning rules applicable to medical cannabis dispensaries. The latter measure received an 8-1 approval, while the other two passed unanimously after many members of the public testified in favor. Councilwoman Karen Toles was the “no” vote on the medical marijuana bill.
CB 47-2017 amends county code to add the M-A-C (Major Activity Center) zone to the short list of zones where a medical marijuana dispensary can locate in the county. The other zones are C-O, C-S-C, M-U and M-U-I (commercial office, commercial shopping center, mixed use and mixed use infill). The new bill keeps in place the other restrictions in county law: a dispensary must be more than one mile away from any other dispensary and 500 feet away from any school, park or residential-zoned area as well as located within 500 feet of a medical facility.
The council spent several months last year crafting legislation about medical marijuana dispensaries, which are allowed under state law and therefore must be permitted in the county, in spite of some councilmembers’ stated opposition to it. This year is the first year the state has issued preliminary licenses to potential dispensaries, and licensees were having a hard time finding a location to set up shop under the previous rules.
“We’re not in a position where we can say no, but we wanted to potentially put it in zones where we thought it was appropriate to do that,” said Councilman Todd Turner, the sponsor of CB 47-2017, at a committee hearing, adding the change doesn’t significantly expand the range of options available for dispensaries. “There are only potentially two areas that are zoned M-A-C, although there are multiple properties within those zones.”
Councilwomen Andrea Harrison and Deni Taveras and Council Chair Derrick Davis are co-sponsors on the bill.
Marcus McKay, the owner of Metropolitan Medicinals, a licensee for state senate District 25, told the council at a June 7 committee hearing that most of the shopping centers in the district are located close to residential areas.
“We have had a high level of difficulty in finding a suitable facility located within our district that meets the current zoning regulations,” he said. “On most of those main thoroughfares, there are residences on the street behind that main thoroughfare. And if we’re looking at the radius, within that radius it has been impossible to find a suitable location within our district. It is a densely-populated district.”
McKay and his attorney, as well as attorneys representing other licensees in the county, sought additional changes to existing law: that a change be made to the provision specifying the dispensary be within one-half mile of a Metro station in the mixed-use zones and the definition of medical facility be expanded to include the federally-owned ones at Joint Base Andrews. The committee was not comfortable moving forward with those amendments at the time, however.
Council Vice-Chair Dannielle Glaros said she was certain conversations with dispensary license holders would continue, and the county’s zoning may need to change again to be less restrictive to allow the license holders to begin operating by the end of the year, as required by the license.
Glaros was also the main sponsor of the council’s healthy vending legislation, which requires that all vending machines in county-owned property offer items that contain low levels of fat, calories, sugar and sodium.
“It’s been an absolute honor to work on this legislation,” Glaros said.
The county executive must carry out the new requirements through contracts with vendors, and Toles said she hoped he would move expeditiously.
Lehman championed a bill that will prohibit owners of indoor tanning facilities from allowing minors under age 18 from using the equipment and require them to post signs informing people of the new law.
“I fully believe it will save lives,” she said.