Maryland Senate OKs bill that limits how counties ‘unduly burden cannabis businesses’

A bill that would limit county governments’ ability to restrict the location of cannabis dispensaries has moved forward in the Maryland General Assembly.

On Thursday, Maryland’s Senate passed House Bill 805, which would make it tougher for local governments to establish zoning restrictions for cannabis dispensaries. It comes one week after the state handed out the first round of cannabis business licenses.

Since legal recreational marijuana sales went into effect in July 2023, local officials in some counties have attempted to limit the location of dispensaries. But the bill’s sponsor Del. C.T. Wilson says he doesn’t want to see what’s happened with liquor stores in the state happen to cannabis dispensaries.

“The goal is not to cluster them in one area so they feed off each other. It makes zero sense to somehow crowd them all into one area,” Wilson said at a hearing on the bill last month.

The bill would prevent county governments from imposing stricter zoning restrictions on cannabis dispensaries than the restrictions on stores that sell alcohol.

The bill would make sure that local zoning regulations “do not unduly burden cannabis businesses or impede their ability to operate within the parameters set by state law,” Wilson said.

The current law in place already restricts dispensaries from being within 1,000 feet of each other or within 500 feet of schools, day cares, playgrounds, libraries and public parks.

While the bill would limit how far local governments can go in terms of establishing geographical restrictions, it would increase some of those restrictions already in place.

The new bill would allow for local governments to increase the 1,000-foot buffer between dispensaries up to a half mile. It also requires the Maryland Cannabis Administration to consider geographic distribution when giving licenses and it would allow the public to protest new dispensary locations.

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Grace Newton

Grace Newton is an Associate Producer at WTOP. She also works as an associate producer for NPR Newscast. Grace was born and raised in North Carolina but has lived in D.C. since 2018. Grace graduated from American University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in art history in 2022.

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