Catasauqua Press

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Medical marijuana: Salisbury Township amendment sent to LV planners

Sunday, June 25, 2017 by Paul Willistein pwillistein@tnonline.com in Focus

A proposed amendment to the Salisbury Township Zoning Ordinance to regulate medical marijuana facilities has been advanced to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission.

The Salisbury Township Planning Commission voted unanimously 7-0 to submit the amendment to regional planners for review. Stephen McKitish, planners vice-chairman, made the motion to bring the matter to a vote, seconded by planner Richard Schreiter.

It is expected it will take 30 to 40 days for the LVPC to review the township amendment. After that, township planners would again review the amendment. At that time, it is expected the amendment will be available for public review on the township website and at the township municipal building.

“I want to see comments from the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission,” McKitish said. “Their comments could override anything.”

After the LVPC review, township planners are expected to review the amendment again and vote to recommend it for approval or not to the Salisbury Township Board of Commissioners. A public hearing on the amendment would be held, most likely prior to a commissioners’ meeting.

The amendment to Chapter 27 of the township zoning ordinance would allow: academic clinical research centers, medical marijuana grower-processors, medical marijuana transport vehicle offices and medical marijuana dispensaries in commercial (C) and industrial (I) districts in the township. The amendment defines each of the aforesaid. Use regulations for the aforesaid are stated.

The amendment also defines: caregiver, certified medical use, form of medical marijuana, identification card (issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Health) and registry (for medical marijuana organizations and practitioners).

The amendment is based on a proposed amendment from the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

“We’re following a template that the state put out,” Salisbury Township Director of Planning and Zoning Cynthia Sopka told planners at the June 13 public meeting held to review the ordinance. One resident was in the audience at the meeting.

“This is really just a draft,” Sopka explained of the seven-page amendment. “If there’s anything to be tweaked, they’ll be making recommendations,” Sopka said of the LVPC.

“Dave [Tettemer] looked at it and made some changes with respect to parking,” Sopka said.

Sopka, David J. Tettemer, Salisbury Township consulting engineer, and Atty. John W. Ashley, Salisbury Township solicitor, reviewed the township amendment, based on an ordinance proposed by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, which licenses and regulates marijuana facilities.

“It’s very in-depth,” Sopka said of the amendment. “You have to have something like it [the amendment]. It [a medical marijuana facility] will have to go into one of those places [a commercial or industrial district].

“This will be adopted into our zoning ordinance,” Sopka said.

Based on an analysis by The Press of a Salisbury Township zoning map, the following commercial and light industrial districts in the township are potential sites for a medical marijuana facility (street location boundaries and directions are approximate):

C1 Office Laboratory: Cedar Crest Professional Park, across from Lehigh Valley Hospital - Cedar Crest, south of Interstate 78 and north of Fish Hatchery Road.

C1 Office Laboratory: Cedar Crest Boulevard, east and west sides, from Lindberg Avenue to Kathleen Avenue.

C1 Office Laboratory: The Pidcock Company office park, Fish Hatchery Road, west of Oxford Drive and north of Interstate 78.

C2 Neighborhood Commercial: Lehigh Street, north side, from Bevin Drive west to Country Club Road.

C2 Neighborhood Commercial: South Pike Avenue, east side, approximately across from Salisbury Township municipal complex, and along Buttonwood Street.

C2 Neighborhood Commercial: East Emaus Avenue, south and north sides, vicinity of South Albert Street, Chapel Avenue, South Bradford, Woodside Court.

C2 Neighborhood Commercial: East Emaus Avenue, south side, from Park Avenue east to Hillcrest Avenue.

C2 Neighborhood Commercial: East Susquehanna Street, north side, from Fairview Avenue east to Park Avenue.

C2 Neighborhood Commercial: East Susquehanna Street, south side, from Fairfax east to Vermont Avenue.

C3 General Commercial: Lehigh Street, south side, south of 31st Street to Bevin Drive; Lehigh Street, north side; at south side of South Mall, and at Bevin Drive, north side of South Mall.

I Light Industrial: Walking Purchase Park, vicinity of Lehigh County Men’s Community Correction Center, 1600 Riverside Drive.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health is expected to award the first round of medical marijuana facility permits in June.

A representative for Bluestone Biomedical Group, Harrisburg, made a presentation at the March 9 township commissioners’ meeting, stating the firm is considering a site for a medical marijuana dispensary in Cedar Crest Professional Park. At that meeting, Sopka said she had previously spoken with a leasing agent for Cedar Crest Professional Park about a lease sought for a medical marijuana dispensary.

The professional park is considered to be a prime location because Lehigh Valley Hospital - Cedar Crest, with its John & Dorothy Morgan Cancer Center, is located in the township Medical Overlay District, which includes Cedar Crest Professional Park, 1255 S. Cedar Crest Boulevard, which is across the highway from the hospital.

Salisbury is in Region 2 of the six Pennsylvania Department of Health medical marijuana regions. Region 2 includes Lehigh, Northampton, Carbon, Monroe, Pike, Luzerne, Wyoming, Lackawanna, Susquehanna and Wayne counties.

Region 2 is allocated four dispensary permits and two grower-processor permits. Lehigh and Northampton counties is each allocated one dispensary permit, for which up to three locations can be opened.

Other Lehigh Valley municipalities considering or enacting regulation of medical-marijuana dispensaries and associated enterprises include Emmaus, Upper Macungie Township, Lehigh County; and Bethlehem, and Hanover, East Allen, Bethlehem and William townships, all Northampton County.

GuadCo LLC received approval for a medical marijuana dispensary for Keystone Canna Remedies, 2467 Baglyos Circle, off Emrick Boulevard, Lehigh Valley Industrial Park VI, Bethlehem Township. Pennsylvania Department of Health approval is required.

The health department accepted permit applications Jan. 17 through March 20.

In the first phase, 27 dispensary permits and 12 grower-processor permits are expected to be awarded, about half of the number authorized by the law.

Overall, the health department may issue permits for up to 50 dispensaries, again with each allowed up to three locations. The health department began the medical marijuana program when Gov. Tom Wolf signed Senate Bill 3 into law April 17, 2016.

Dispensaries are not expected to open until April or May 2018.

The state legislation defines medical marijuana in the forms of a pill, oil, gel, creams or ointments, vaporization (excluding dry leaf or plant form), tincture and liquid.

Patients with a serious medical condition as certified by a physician will be able to obtain medical marijuana at approved dispensaries.

According to the health department website, studies have shown medical marijuana can help patients suffering from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Autism, Cancer, Crohn’s Disease, Epilepsy, Glaucoma, HIV, Huntington’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, and Sickle Cell Anemia.

As of March 1, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures’ web site, 28 states and the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico approved medical-marijuana legislation.