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Anne Arundel County Executive Steven R. Schuh. (Bryan P. Sears photo)

Schuh softens proposed Anne Arundel ban on medical marijuana

A total prohibition on medical marijuana facilities in Anne Arundel County appears to be less likely under what is being billed as a compromise proposal offered by County Executive Steven R. Schuh.

The proposed amendments would replace Schuh’s bill, as introduced last month, which would have banned all growing, processing and dispensing facilities within the county.

Schuh, in a statement, called the compromise amendments “a solution that best serves the people of Anne Arundel County.”

“While the current state law continues to present challenges, we have come together to propose some of the strictest medical marijuana zoning regulations in Maryland,” Schuh said.

Neither Schuh nor a spokesman was immediately available for comment.

The proposed amendments have the support of four of the county’s seven council members and include:

  • Prohibiting growing and processing facilities within 1,000 feet of schools or dwellings.
  • Prohibiting dispensaries within 1,000 feet of dwellings and schools north of Route 50 and east of the South River.
  • Requirements for special-exception zoning hearings for all proposed facilities.

The amendments also set requirements for size of growing operations; limit how close dispensaries can be located to each other; restrict the use of lights at growing facilities; require armed guards at growing facilities; and limit on window and counter displays.

Schuh’s original bill drew criticism from members of his own county council as well as from one state senator who said the attempt to ban medical marijuana from the county was precluded by state law.

Anne Arundel County Councilman Christopher J. Trumbauer, a Democrat and sponsor of an alternative bill, said he most likely will not withdraw his proposal.

Trumbauer’s bill would limit the growing, manufacturing and dispensing of medical cannabis to certain areas of the county based on zoning and is modeled closely after a bill that was passed earlier this year in Baltimore County.

An original version of the Baltimore County bill also proposed a 1,000-foot setback from homes, schools and churches. That was later reduced after planning maps showed that the limits were so restrictive that it left few places for marijuana growing or dispensing facilities to locate.

Trumbauer said he has the same concerns about the limits in Schuh’s bill.

“My overall concern is that it is still too restrictive,” he said.

Trumbauer said he has requested maps from the state Department of Planning that would show how the new proposed restrictions would affect the location of growing, processing and dispensing facilities.

Schuh’s proposed changes do not appear to have assuaged the concerns of Sen. Robert A. “Bobby” Zirkin, D-Baltimore County and chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

“Without seeing it, it’s really difficult to comment on it, but I think it’s crystal clear that County Executive Schuh wants to restrict it as much as he can,” Zirkin said.

The senator last month obtained an advisory letter from the attorney general that said local jurisdictions would likely be precluded by state law from passing laws that banned access to medical marijuana or made the laws so onerous that it created a de-facto ban.

Zirkin said he will propose legislation next year to clarify the state law regarding how counties can regulate medical marijuana facilities.

“We will have legislation on this this year,” Zirkin said. “It’s for certain.”