Lehighton plans zoning for medical marijuana facilities
GRAPHIC BY DAVID W. ROWE
Lehighton is amending its zoning ordinance to include areas where medical marijuana facilities could be located.
Borough Manager Nicole Beckett said, “With the Medical Marijuana Act enacted in Pennsylvania, borough officials have been working on amendments in the existing zoning ordinance in order to meet the requirements of the act.
“Our existing zoning ordinance does not define medical marijuana facilities, nor does it allow for the provisions of districts,” she added.
The ordinance will determine where medical marijuana dispensaries can be located, as well as where medical marijuana can be grown and where any medical marijuana academic clinic research centers can be located, which is an accredited medical school in the state that works with an acute care hospital also within the state.
Beckett said that the Medical Marijuana Act states that, “A grower/processor shall meet the same municipal zoning and land use requirements as other manufacturing, processing and production facilities that are located in the same zoning district.”
A dispensary may not be located within 1,000 feet of the property line of a public, private or parochial school or a day-care center.
Council initially began studying a zoning ordinance in preparation for a marijuana dispensary, which wants to come to town.
According to the Department of Health, Local Dispensaries LLC and Serenity HealthCare PA LLC have applied for two of the licenses, and have listed Lehighton as the area in which they plan to be located.
Attempts to reach the company for specific details were not successful.
Recently, the state Department of Health said it is planning a second round of licenses to businesses wanting to open medical marijuana dispensaries. Four of the licenses, which would permit the sale of medical marijuana oil, liquids, pills and other products, would go to areas in the northeast.
Beckett said a medical marijuana dispensary is considered retail (small scale) and is allowed within districts set by zoning.
“The 1,000-foot buffer for private schools, public schools and day cares eliminates areas within the zones allowed for retail,” she said. “There are some areas along Route 443, a small section of Sgt. Stanley Hoffman Boulevard and a section of North First Street.”
Carbon County commissioners in May sent a letter of support for the dispensary.
“Across the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, communities have been announcing the opening or the construction of medical marijuana dispensaries and sharing details of the jobs created, the private investment made, the blight removed, and the tax revenue generated. Many of these dispensaries are located in adjacent counties to Carbon.
We are excited by the prospect of becoming a county that is able to join in the celebration of welcoming a dispensary to our business community and local economy.”
A research center will only be permitted “to grow medical marijuana for the purpose of on-site clinical research and not for gifting, donating or sale, provided such activity occurs indoors within an enclosed secure building, which includes electronic locking systems, electronic surveillance and other features” required by the state DOH.
A grower or processor will only be allowed to grow and a medical marijuana dispensary would only be allowed to dispense “medical marijuana indoors within an enclosed, secure building, which includes electronic locking systems, electronic surveillance and other features … and not within a trailer, cargo container, mobile or modular unit, mobile home, recreational vehicle or other motor vehicle.”
The ordinance would also prohibit dispensaries from having a drive-thru service, outdoor seating areas and vending machines, consumption on the premises and direct or home delivery service.
The ordinance does not restrict the location of a medical research center, but does require a planting buffer between the facility and any adjoining residential use or district.
For all three facilities, the ordinance prohibits any “emission of dust, fumes, vapors, odor or waste into the environment from any facility where medical marijuana growing, processing or testing occurs.” This is in compliance with environmental protection requirements.
The ordinance is slated for adoption at the Sept. 24 council meeting.