Strong Opposition Expressed To Proposed Medical Cannabis Ordinance

It would allow the growing of medical marijuana on land zoned agriculture.

Frederick, Md. (KM)  A proposed ordinance to allow the growing of medical cannabis on land zoned agriculture in Frederick County brought out a lot of opponents to a public hearing Monday night.

Farmer Merhle Mayne from Buckeystown said that marijuana is not an agricultural commodity. “Farm commodities are bought and sold over the counter. Anybody can buy ’em. We can’t buy ’em; we can’t sell ’em,” he said. “So why is this going to be an issue to put in on farm ground for? It’s not a farm product.”

Marsha Bowers and her husband own Popular Spring Acres. “I have seen agricultural land decrease in this county due to growth in population,” she said. “Land that is zoned agriculture is precious. It should remain in the production of agricultural products and not pharmaceutical products.” Bowers also said she doesn’t object to medical cannabis, but she says it should be grown and processed in areas zoned industrial.

The ordinance, sponsored by Council Vice President MC Keegan-Ayer, would allow medical marijuana to be grown in agricultural areas as a pilot program with special exception approval. The pilot program would run for eight years, and it would be assessed each year by the County Council. To eligible, an applicant must have filed with the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission by November 1st, 2015.

Medical cannabis cannot be grown with 125-feet of a property line, or within 100-feet of a property line in a side yard or a back yard, according to the ordinance. Also, the measure says security lighting is required,but no visible light should emanate from the property from dusk till dawn; and the premises shall have on-site security at all times consisting of at least one person.

A farmer in the Middletown area, Larry Gude, wants to operate such a facility on his property along Marker Road. “We’ve  been working on this for about a year and to try to find a way to do this. There’s not going to be any dispensing; there’s not going to be any processing; there’s not going to be any concertina wires; there’s not going to be any guard towers; there’s not going to be guns, guard dogs or searchlights. It;s the same thing I’ve been doing for 30 years growing a plant and taking it to market.”

The property is located at 2730 Marker Road, and has a greenhouse.

A neighbor not far from the property, Francis Person who lives on Free State Drive, says he’s against the idea, calling it a “pot farm.” “But as we stand here, marijuana is illegal. Marijuana is highly sought after. And if you have a farm with a lot of pot plants on it, regardless of security, people are going to be looking to steal it,” he said.

Steve McKay from Monrovia, also stated that marijuana is illegal under federal law; and, as a result, many federally insured banks would be very reluctant to finance medical cannabis operations. “I’m less worried about the potential theft and crime that might come along with the product on these farms or these dispensaries. More concerned about the fact that these are cash-rich operations,” he says. “If there’s going to be any issues, any security concerns, any criminal concerns that come along, it’s going to be the fact that people are going to know there’s a lot of cash there.”

Kevin Klink, who will manage the medical cannabis operation at the Gude Farm, says he will reach out to the neighbors if this facility is approved. “We’re not  talking about whether or not you like or don’t like cannabis. We’ve already been through all that. We’re just talking about can we grow a plant in agriculture. 300 years ago it was fine to do it here. Our forefathers did it,” he said.