Medical marijuana dispensary proposed

By MIDYA MCPHERSON

A medical marijuana dispensary may soon arrive in Takoma Park. The prospect has sparked dicsussion among residents and city officials about locations for these businesses and what guidelines can be put in place for them, if any.

No licenses have been issued in the state. However, local entrepreneurs have already approached city council to propose putting a dispensary in Takoma Park.

Businesswoman Tara Blaise, owner and CEO of Takoma Healing Station, has already begun seeking retail space in Takoma Park, she said.

Tara Blaise said that she intends to open Takoma Healing Station which will be a facility dedicated to helping people who are sick obtain medical marijuana; she wants to do that in Takoma Park, where she is a resident.

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Tara Blaise addressing the Takoma Park city council, Oct. 19.

“I fully support medical marijuana and the legalization that went through the state,” said councilmember Kate Stewart of Ward 3. “Montgomery County wants to ‘wait and see,’ However, I would like to see a more practical approach, she said.

For example, Baltimore County requires that dispensaries can be located in business districts, granted that they are at least 1,000 feet away from residential areas, and California requires dispensaries to be at least 600 feet away from schools, said Stewart.

The underlying issue for Takoma Park is that its zoning and planning authority resides under Montgomery County jurisdiction, said Rosalind Grigsby, community development manager for The City of Takoma Park. The county has no set zoning regulations on marijuana dispensaries, she said.

A dispensary or a growing facility can operate like any other retail business, said Grigsby. The same applies for Takoma Park. “Anyone can open a retail space in the city if they are approved for a license. Because the state made it legal, local governments cannot ban it,” she said.

Such zoning regulations in Montgomery County give investors more advantage to plan for dispensaries or growing facilities, said Grigsby. Takoma Park city officials want to make sure that guidelines are in place when licenses are issued so that both residents and investors know exactly where they stand on the issue, she said.

Maryland made medical marijuana legal in the state on Oct 1, 2013, but has revised the law three times since then. The new revisions to the law will allow 15 licenses for growers and 94 dispensaries throughout the state.

Prospective investors can apply for medical marijuana licenses with the state commission, which will be available as soon as January 2016, assuming they meet zoning requirements in their counties.

Applications for those seeking a license to operate as a medical cannabis grower, processor or dispenser within the state has been posted on the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission site. Applicants have until Nov. 6, 2015 to apply for a business licenses.

At the recent city council meeting on Oct. 19, councilmembers further discuss how medical marijuana dispensaries could operate in the city.

Some council members were concerned about their zoning, where they can be located, and how to deal with residents who may be against the idea.

The community development Manager, Rosalind Grigsby said at the meeting that extensive research from other states show that there is little to no instances of crimes in relation to medical marijuana dispensaries.

Councilman of Ward 4, Terry Seamans said that the council should anticipate the issues and challenges that medical marijuana dispensaries could bring to the community.

However, Tim Male of Ward 2, was concerned particularly about safety and security issues. He stated that there may be some safety issues if these facilities are located near school bus stops.

Male also had some concerns about security issues with the facility themselves.

Marijuana is not legal under federal law–dispensaries can’t deposit money into banks–they have to provide their own securities, and the product is highly sought after, said Male. These issues could present a lot of problems if these dispensaries are close to schools or residential areas, he said.