Baltimore is prepping itself for the opening of 11 medical marijuana dispensaries, yet residents are saying that it’s more than difficult to find out where they’re opening and why and how those sites were chosen.
The Baltimore City Council is holding a meeting at 1pm today to get the skinny on the medical dispensaries, how they’ll affect local zoning and enforcements and, “their impact on community master plans in Baltimore City.”
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Mary Clarke, a sitting city councilwoman called the hearing after she said that Baltimore residents in her district voiced worry about a dispensary opening on Keswick Road in Wyman Park.
As quoted in the Baltimore Sun, Clarke said, “Basically they’re concerned about reports and academic studies that indicate that in other locations throughout the nation crime increases in surrounding neighborhoods to these locations. This backs up to a residential neighborhood. Yes, it’s zoned commercial,” she conceded, “but there should be a process for community input for the location of these dispensaries.”
The Baltimore County Council set zoning rules, but Baltimore City officials chose to treat medical marijuana businesses like pharmacies under the zoning codes, which means a cannabis facility approved by the state doesn’t need to go to the city for zoning approval.
This lack of zoning approval has caused a small, nervous frenzy in some residents and city officials, who don’t know where a dispensary might pop up and if they’ll be near residential areas, parks, schools or even churches.
Alan Staple owns the proposed Wyman Park dispensary and says he’s spoken with Clarke and other residents. He’s now working on a memorandum of understanding for them.
“Although medical cannabis has been approved in many states, it’s new to Maryland and naturally people have many questions and some misconceptions,” he said in an email to the Baltimore Sun. “Dispensaries will be serving patients in need, who have been approved by their physicians, much like a pharmacy. There’s no reason to stigmatize patients that need medical cannabis. They are not criminals.”
Mayor Catherine Pugh says she wants patients with doctor recommendations to be able to access their medicine, but she also wants to address the concerns of the residents and make sure that the dispensaries aren’t opening in residential areas. She believes the dispensaries should be “equitably” spread throughout commercial areas of Baltimore.
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“There are people in desperate need of this treatment,” she said, “I would not want people denied that kind of treatment.”
Maryland voted yes to medical cannabis in 2013, but it’s taken up until now for more than one dispensary to be opening. It’s high time more dispensaries could open in commercial areas and for patients to have access to the medicine they so very much need.