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PA: New Cannabis Law Clashes With Pocono Township Ordinances

Katelyn Baker

Well-Known Member
The fledgling Pennsylvania medical marijuana industry is facing a roadblock.

When municipalities first drafted their ordinances years ago, they never contemplated zoning regulations to permit the growth, processing or dispensing of cannabis.

Pocono Township faces such a problem.

Consultants representing CannaMed of Thousand Oaks, CA. initially asked the township for a corrective amendment to its zoning ordinance that allows the production of medical marijuana. This, it said, was in accordance with the state's new April 2016 law legalizing yet regulating the growing, processing and dispensing of medical marijuana.

The township did not agree it was necessary, and eventually the consultant, Comprehensive Cannabis Consulting of Colorado acquiesced. Yet medical marijuana growing, processing or dispensing it still is not permitted.

"They agreed with our analysis that our zoning was not defective and withdrew their request for a curative amendment," Pocono Township Commissioner Judi Coover said. "And they will submit something else. We do allow for the processing and growing of pharmaceuticals in Pocono Township. If it were Sanofi interested in adding to their portfolio, they wouldn't have to come in front of us."

The problem is, CannaMed wants to place its grow and processing facility, a self enclosed, security rich building in a light industrial zone. Township Manager Charlie Vogt said medical marijuana production is not a permitted use within the light manufacturing zoning designation.

"This is confusing to everyone because of a law passed in 2016 and regulations that came out about 2 weeks ago," he said.

It's the same across the state, according to Monroe County Planning Commissions' Eric Koopman, who received a lengthy draft ordinance from Harrisburg to distribute to municipalities wanting to host a grow or dispensary facility.

"I gave them model ordinance from Harrisburg," he said. "This is still a new law, so there will probably be some new tweaks."

One of those municipalities requesting the amendment was the Borough of Mount Pocono, who was approached by what Mayor Fredrick Courtright referred to as a one stop shopping operation - both a grow/processing and dispensary business.

"We've had a few meetings with them. I was pleased to see them come here. Healthcare is such a growth area in the county. It would be awesome," he said, citing the jobs that would be created.

The problem as it stands in Pocono Township is its current light manufacturing definition says that except for grain, the processing of raw materials is not permitted.

Instead, Comprehensive Cannabis Consulting petitioned the township to change its definition of light manufacturing. Although Coover was encouraged with the withdrawal, she thinks there's a better way.

"I don't believe with broad sweeping changes (such as redefining light manufacturing)," Coover said. "With someone who wants to make changes on one piece of property, bring in your property and specific plan, and ask for a special exception. That's a lot easier to accept and do than sweeping changes."

Vogt sees obstacles to that.

"The zoning officer gave the opinion it was not permitted as defined," he said, and a variance for a property is required to show a hardship on the property if the variance were to be denied. He noted the property could still be used for other zoned applications.

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News Moderator: Katelyn Baker 420 MAGAZINE ®
Full Article: New Cannabis Law Clashes With Pocono Township Ordinances
Author: Howard Frank
Contact: (570) 421-3000
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Website: Pocono Record
 
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