Carroll Report Maryland Muckraker

Muckraker: Guerin, Vigliotti show leadership in resisting State mandated cannabis sales in Carroll

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Commissioners Mike Guerin and Joe Vigliotti during Thursday’s Board of County Commissioners meeting

On Thursday, Carroll’s Board of County Commissioners conversed at length about how the County may handle the local zoning aspect of a new State law mandating that recreational cannabis dispensaries and groweries be allowed to operate in all parts of the state, even in localities where residents don’t want it.

The legislation from the Maryland General Assembly prevents localities, like Carroll County, from unduly burdening recreational cannabis dispensaries and groweries with restrictive zoning requirements or stipulations otherwise, though localities will retain the authority to prohibit on-site consumption if they choose.

Lynda Eisenberg, Carroll’s Director of Planning, briefed the Commissioners on how the County currently manages zoning for medical cannabis facilities, where dispensaries are permitted in commercial-medium and commercial-high zones, and groweries are permitted in industrial-low and industrial-high zones. Both must be at least 400 feet from residential lots and any lot occupied by a school, religious establishment, or institution for human care.

Current zoning regulations for medical cannabis facilities in Carroll, which may serve as a model for upcoming recreational cannabis facilities

When deliberation started on the recreational cannabis facilities, Commissioner Joe Vigliotti promptly called for zero on-site consumption, whether it be the smoking of marijuana or the eating of THC infused gummies, before inquiring about increasing the 400 foot distance requirement, which may technically violate the State’s mandated undue burden clause. He separately wondered about enacting a nuisance provision, so neighboring business owners might have recourse in the event that the odor of a dispensary deters their customers.

Commissioner Guerin responded by confirming the dangers and potency of contemporary cannabis as compared to decades ago, before asking if the best path forward for Carroll is to do nothing at all. The suggestion being that, by allowing Eisenberg and the Planning and Zoning Commission to start on a plan, the Commissioners would be validating a law they stand in vehement opposition to.

Commissioners Ken Kiler and Ed Rothstein procedurally rebutted, suggesting that by doing nothing, the County runs the risk of having the State make these crucial determinations for the County in a way that is even more offensive to residents than what has already been mandated.

Guerin said State over-reach into County affairs is a already a theme, before channeling the preoccupied families and parents he represents in his district, who he says things are already difficult enough for and would look at this issue and consider it BS.

Vigliotti echoed Guerin’s sentiment, saying he fiercely opposes the legalization of cannabis since it has been proven to be a gateway drug to opioids which the County already struggles with. Then he motioned that the Commissioners should indeed forward the issue to the Planning and Zoning Commission, only on the stipulation that the regulations be as restrictive as possible, while being open to filing suit against the State or voicing opposition more broadly.

The motion passed 4-1, with Guerin being the lone nay.

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