McCandless council OKs measure to restrict where medical marijuana facilities can operate |
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Tony LaRussa

McCandless council has approved temporary measures to regulate medical marijuana facilities until a town official can develop a more complete set of rules for adoption.

While municipalities cannot legally prohibit such operations, local officials can limit the businesses to specific zoning districts and set certain rules such as hours of operation and any number of conditions so long as they are not so restrictive that they prevent a business from being able to operate.

According to the town’s zoning administrator, the town’s guiding principal regarding enacted regulations for marijuana-related businesses is that they must be treated the same as any other business with a similar use, such as a pharmacy.

State law currently prohibits medical marijuana processing plants and dispensaries from opening within 1,000 feet of the property line of any school or day-care facility.

Because McCandless had nothing on the books related to medical marijuana facilities, council approved restrictions in the form of a “pending ordinance” that takes effect immediately and can be tweaked and approved in a final form at a later date.

Without the pending ordinance, marijuana facilities would only have to meet the guidelines set by the state.

The pending ordinance approved by a 6-1 vote at the June 25 council meeting restricts medical marijuana dispensaries to the town’s commercial zoning districts. Dispensaries also would be allowed along the Perry Highway business district, which is zoned for both residential and commercial use. Councilwoman Joan Powers voted against approving the measure.

Under the new rules, medical marijuana processors and facilities that engage in academic clinical research will only be permitted in a zoning district created in the area of the McCandless Corporate Center along Corporate Drive near the LA Fitness center, which was changed from commercial to light industrial zoning.

The state plans to grant 23 permits to dispensaries and 13 to growers by the end of the year, which would double the size of Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana industry.

The state has received 166 applications for dispensary permits and 91 applications for permits to run grower/processor operations. None of the applications seek to open in McCandless.

Tony LaRussa is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-772-6368 or [email protected] or via Twitter @TonyLaRussaTrib.

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