Pubdate: Mon, 10 Oct 2016
Source: Reporter, The (Lansdale, PA)
Copyright: 2016 The Reporter
Author: Dan Sokil
Page: A1


Borough could limit locations by zoning code

LANSDALE) Borough officials are looking ahead to a topic that looks
likely to lead to months of discussion.

What sort of local rules and regulations should be put in place for
medical marijuana facilities?

"This particular use is legal, now, in Pennsylvania: the distribution of 
it, the growing of it, and the cultivation of it," said Assistant 
Borough Manager John Ernst.

"However, the legislature has not come to a final conclusion and
agreement on what the laws actually say, and when it will be finally
brought to a point where it can be enforced," he said. Back in April
the state legislature approved a bill legalizing the provision of
medical marijuana in Pennsylvania, and state officials said at that
time it would take roughly two years for regulations to be fully
written and facilities to be opened. Details are still far from
finalized, Ernst told council's code enforcement committee, but early
indications are that the state legislature will pass rules and
regulations governing medical marijuana facilities similarly to
pharmacies, with medical marijuana only available in pill, cream or
tablet forms - not leaf.

"This is going to be something very strictly controlled by the state,
and I think they're trying to get out in front of it very quickly and
proactively," he said.

Annual licenses by the state will likely require significant financial
commitments, state inspections, and licensed physicians on site, Ernst
said, but while those rules are still being developed, Lansdale would
be well-advised to put its own rules on the books.

"I felt that it's probably in our best interest to be proactive, by
providing some type of rules on the books before we get phone calls,
and before we are legally bound to apply some type of use and
occupancy permit to a use such as this," Ernst said.

So far two queries have been fielded by the borough's code department
from persons possibly interested in setting up medical marijuana
facilities in town, Ernst told the committee, but none have presented
any formal plans since the laws are still so unsettled.

"Because the laws have not really been finalized yet, they're not
really in a position to get approval but they are trying to find out
which municipalities are conducive to having them set up shop," he

Several municipalities in the Harrisburg area have begun developing a
model ordinance which could be adapted by Lansdale for its own use,
according to Ernst, and the new regulations would likely defer to
state rules on exactly how medical marijuana facilities are run, but
leave some control in the borough's hands on where it can go.

"It's my understanding that we cannot prohibit it, but we can prohibit
its location by ordinance, in terms of allowing it to occur in certain
zoning districts," Ernst said.

During an update of Lansdale's codes regarding electronic message
signs in 2014, a total ban on those signs was modified to allow them,
but only in certain areas.

"Very much like what the planning commission did with the digital
signs by allowing them in the industrial district, we could allow a
business such as this to be in the industrial district, or the
business district," he said.

Early indications are that the state will also require strict
financial reporting, and will likely provide only 25 licenses to grow
marijuana and 50 licenses to distribute, so those relatively low
numbers would seem to indicate only one facility would be likely for
Lansdale or the Lansdale area. Those who seek permits would also
likely need to submit letters from the municipality saying the use is
permitted, and Ernst said that's where borough council and public
feedback come in.

"We're going to be as proactive as we can with this, so we can start
to craft and ordinance and get it in front of all those people that
need to be looking at this," Ernst said.

Code committee member Jack Hansen said the financial reporting could
increase transparency, if cash purchases were not permitted and credit
transactions could be tracked.

"I think it's going to be kind of like going to your pharmacy. I go
and use plastic when I pay for my prescriptions at my pharmacy, but I
don't know what their business practice are going to be," he said.

"John's absolutely right: we have to be ahead of this before somebody
gets a license to open a shop in Lansdale," he said.

Lansdale's code committee next meets at 8 p.m. on Nov. 2, and full
council next meets at 7 p.m. on Oct. 19, both at the borough municipal
building, 1 Vine St. For more information or meeting agendas and
materials visit or follow  on Twitter.
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