Worries over high rent, discrimination kill bill to limit cannabis dispensary locations in Prince George’s Co.

In Maryland, the Prince George’s County Council couldn’t agree on tightening the rules for cannabis dispensaries on Wednesday.

A bill was in front of the council that would have limited where cannabis dispensaries could be located in the county to industrial areas and business parks.

The bill needed six votes to pass, but only got five. One council member voted against it and two council members abstained.

The majority of the residents who spoke at the meeting were in favor of the bill.

“Think of the youth and teenagers, the effect on their brain functioning,” said resident Julia Baltimore. “Cannabis is destroying our youth and teenagers.”

“The locations that will be most effected in our county are not the neighborhoods with sprawling one acre and half acre lots,” Abdullah Hijazi said. “But it will be in our more dense and low income communities inside the beltway, in commercial centers, closer to our homes where we already have a proliferation of liquor stores and tobacco stores.”

Jameel Aalim-Johnson, president of the Prince George’s County Muslim Council, also chimed in with concerns.

“Communities like ours take on too many vices, as what happens in many minority communities,” Aalim-Johnson said. “We say it’s going to be managed, and enforced in this way. But take a look at the smoke shops, take a look at the liquor stores, you take a look now at even truck parking and it’s not being enforced. It’s hard for many of us to believe this will be enforced properly and not be a detriment to the community.”

The only opposition came from Tony Caffrey who reminded the council that Maryland had a goal when it came to legalizing marijuana sales.

“The stated first priority of the legislature is to stamp out the illicit market so consumers have access to safe product,” Caffrey said, “and this legislation runs counter to the state’s objectives.”

As the council itself then discussed the topic, Council member Krystal Oriadha said it’s common knowledge that sometimes communities in the beltway are not treated equally.

“What is told to us is not honored by businesses. There this a conversation that all these stores will be nice, they’ll look like Apple stores, they’ll look like yoga studios,” said Oriadha. “But the reality is no one can guarantee the quality that will be in my community. When I go to the liquor store in my district, versus the liquor store in Bowie and Laurel, all in Prince George’s County, they look completely different. There’s bulletproof glass in every liquor store in my district. The notion and idea that every community is treated equally is just not true.”

She’s also concerned with over saturation of harmful products in certain communities, like liquor stores, tobacco shops and fast food chains.

“This bill is asking for us to be mindful of the needs and outcry of those communities. They have made it clear they don’t want to continue to see this over saturation in their community,” Oridha said. “Please put them first for a change over industry.”

The opposing vote came from Council member Wanika Fisher.

“I do think this has negative impact on social equity applicants, our Black and Brown businesses,” Fisher said. “I think the conversation between legalization and zoning has been conflated during this entire conversation. We’re not here to debate legalization. I also believe when you constrict it this way, the rent that Black and Brown businesses are going to be paying in a very small selected zone is going to be extremely high.”

Supporters of the bill hope to be able to get more members of the council to vote in favor and bring it back up for a vote in the new year.

Michelle Murillo

Michelle Murillo has been a part of the WTOP family since 2014. She started her career in Central Florida before working in radio in New York City and Philadelphia.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up