Frederick City Looking At Changes To Its Laws On Recreational Cannabis

The Aldermen held the first of many discussions on this issue on Wednesday.

Frederick, Md (KM) It was the first of what’s expected to be many discussion about how the City of Frederick can regulate and accommodate recreational cannabis. During a workshop on Wednesday, City Attorney Rachel Nessen told the Board of Aldermen that the state mostly  regulates pot dispensaries, including licenses. But the municipalities and counties have some authority regarding on-site consumption establishments, where customers can consume cannabis products.

“Here the law actually allows us as a city to have the final say as to whether or not we want to even allow these establishments within the city,”: she said. “The statute says in order to operate, they must have a permit or a license from the city.”

State law also says  municipalities and counties can  decide where to place these dispensaries in their zoning ordinances.

These new ordinances would cover new dispensaries that are licensed by the State of Maryland, not the ones already in operation which started out as medical cannabis dispensaries, but began selling recreational pot after it became legal in Maryland on July 1st.

Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak says she wants to see recreational cannabis treated the same way as alcohol. “A dispensary should be permitted anywhere a liquor store is permitted. And an on-site use place should be permitted anywhere a bar is permitted.,” she said.

“I see cannabis exactly the same way as I see alcohol,”: she continues. “Well, I got to say I’ve never had a doctor tell me that I should have a couple drinks to help me sleep at night. So I think cannabis is more safe that alcohol.”

Alderman Kelly Russell says she’s keeping an open mind. “I need some education before I make up my mind,” she said. “My leaning is that I am not thrilled about the idea of on-site consumption facilities. I’m open to hear the pros and cons before any decision is made.”

Russell called the whole issue “a culture shift for a lot of people, including myself. And so I’m trying to have a progressive mindset about it. But I also have lingering experiences that maybe are colored  my perspective.” She is a retired Frederick City Police Officer.

Mayor Michael O’Connor urged the Aldermen be thoughtful in their discussions. “There were local governments that absolutely wanted the ability to opt out of having recreational dispensaries located, and the state said ‘no,'”: he said.

State law says these cannabis dispensaries cannot be located within 500 feet of pre-schools, primary or secondary schools, licensed child care centers  or registered family child care homes, playground or recreational centers, libraries or public parks.

Citing the experiences officers have had dealing with rowdy individuals who stay out too late at the bars, Captain Kirk Henneberry with the Frederick Police urged the Aldermen to restrict hours and locations for these dispensaries or on-site consumption establishments. “Hour of operations and location would be our hope in that if there are restrictions, we’d avoid residential areas and we might restrict the hours of operation,”; he said.

The Aldermen are expected to continue discussions about these issues in the future. Mayor O’Connor said the Maryland Municipal League is holding a symposium on this  state law on August 10th.

By Kevin McManus