The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission may look to Annapolis the next time it offers new licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries.
The Annapolis City Council voted 8-1 Monday night to allow dispensaries within city limits.
The change to the zoning code takes effect immediately and comes a year after Ward 6 Alderman DaJuan Gay, a Democrat, introduced similar legislation, which failed after rancorous debate. As with the 2021 debate, there was considerable discussion about possible buffer zones separating the dispensaries from schools and distances between dispensaries.
As a concession to Ward 3 Alderwoman Rhonda Pindell Charles, who vehemently opposed allowing dispensaries within city limits and voted “no” on the bill, the all-Democratic council adopted a one-mile buffer zone between dispensaries. That may rule out most of the Parole area as a potential site for new medical cannabis vendors, since there is already a Gold Leaf dispensary located on West Street near the city-county line.
Pindell Charles thanked council members for the concession, which she called a matter of “aldermanic courtesy.”
Ward 5 Alderman Ross Arnett pointed out, however, that all the buffer-zone deliberations may be a moot point since the state cannabis commission controls the licenses and approves final locations; municipalities can only opt-in by updating their zoning codes.
At the request of Ward 1 Alderwoman Elly Tierney, the council also voted to require each licensed medical cannabis vendor to provide the city with a Narcan “vending machine.” That machine will be installed in a public place “wherever it is needed” at the direction of the county health department. Narcan is a drug that is used to treat opioid overdoses. The amendment passed by a narrower margin. Ward 5 Alderman Brooks Schandelmeier was one of several who protested, noting there are no medical studies that link marijuana use to opioid addiction. Tierney acknowledged those concerns but said the spirit of the amendment was to ask cannabis vendors to do something that would aid “the recovery community.”
Asked after the meeting why his legislation allowing medical marijuana dispensaries failed to pass by one vote in 2021, Gay quipped, “It was an election year.”
Monday’s meeting marked the council’s last gathering until Sept. 12, since like Congress, the Annapolis City Council heads into recess for the month of August, Here’s a rundown of other actions taken at the meeting:
- The council unanimously voted to recommend resident that Sharon Elliott serve on the Anne Arundel County Police Accountability Board. Elliott is a longtime Department of Justice program manager with extensive experience in domestic violence prevention. “We are so glad and proud to have her,” Pindell Charles said. Elliott’s nomination will now be sent to County Executive Steuart Pittman, who is likely to make her the ninth and final member of the board.
- The council acknowledged receipt of a $189,060 grant from the Maryland Opioid Operational Command Center, which will be used to continue fighting opioid overdoses and addiction. The grant was more than emergency management Director Kevin J. Simmons expected, so he’s returning $70,000 earmarked by the council for anti-opioid measures to the city’s general fund. Simmons reported that it appears 11 residents have died from overdoses so far this year, a lower count than the same time last year.
- The council unanimously voted to allow rental assistance as a permitted use for money in the affordable housing trust fund, which receives revenue from the city’s hotel taxes.
- The council took an initial unanimous, “first reader” vote on a resolution acknowledging environmental violations at the construction site for Parkside Preserve, a townhome development near Quiet Waters Park. The resolution calls on city staffers to enforce stormwater and erosion policies and compels the developer to perform stream restoration in the park.
- The council held a public hearing on legislation that would remove all off-street parking requirements for Annapolis bars and restaurants. One resident and Planning Commission Chair Alex Pline spoke in favor of the measure, which will likely come up for a vote in September.