SALISBURY TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
Public hearing June 13 on medical marijuana facilities regulation
By: PAUL WILLISTEIN
A public meeting to review the draft zoning ordinance amending Chapter 27 of the Salisbury Township zoning ordinance providing for the regulation of medical marijuana facilities will be held by the Salisbury Township Planning Commission, 7:30 p.m. June 13, in the meeting room of the administration building, 2900 S. Pike Ave.
Salisbury Township Director of Planning and Zoning Cynthia Sopka presented the draft zoning ordinance to the township planning commission at the April 11 meeting. Sopka distributed copies of the draft ordinance to planners for review.
There was a possibility a hearing on the ordinance was to be held at the May planning commission meeting, but the May 9 meeting was canceled.
The process for considering the medical marijuana dispensary ordinance, as with any new zoning ordinance or zoning ordinance amendment, requires a public meeting be held by the planning commission and, if planners recommend approval of the ordinance to the township board of commissioners, a public hearing will be held, mostly likely prior to a township commissioners meeting. Commissioners next meet 7 p.m. June 8 and 7 p.m. June 22.
The township ordinance must be submitted for review to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission.
Sopka, David J. Tettemer, Salisbury Township consulting engineer, and Atty. John W. Ashley, Salisbury Township solicitor, crafted the township amendment, based on an ordinance proposed by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, which licenses and regulates marijuana facilities.
The first round of permits are expected to be granted in June by the health department.
The township is not expected to consider a site for an industrial growing facility for medical marijuana.
However, 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 primary 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 Blvd. across the highway from the hospital.
The Commercial Real Estate Women of the Lehigh Valley held a seminar, “Commercial Real Estate Meets Medical Marijuana,” April 27 at Brookside Country Club, Lower Macungie Township.
The Salisbury Township amendment would cover a clinic, research center, medical marijuana growing and processing, transport by vehicle, offices and dispensary, according to Tettemer.
A permit holder must have a pharmacist or doctor at its primary location, with additional locations staffed by a registered nurse practitioner or physician assistant.
Salisbury isn’t the only Lehigh Valley municipality considering or enacting regulation of medical marijuana dispensaries and associated enterprises. Among them are Emmaus, Upper Macungie Township, Lehigh County; and Bethlehem, and Hanover, East Allen, Bethlehem and William townships, all in Northampton County.
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 are each allocated one dispensary permit, for which up to three locations can be opened.
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’ website, 28 states and the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico approved medical marijuana legislation.
The Salisbury Township public meeting on the ordinance amendment is the first item on the planners’ agenda.
Also on the agenda of the June 13 planning commission meeting:
•Review the preliminary plan of the proposed minor subdivision and lot consolidation plan between 2860 Lindberg Ave. and Salisbury Township.
•Review the Salisbury Township subdivision and land development ordinance for recommendation of approval.
Interested persons may attend the meeting and be heard. Those who have questions prior to the meeting, may contact the township office at 610-797-4000.
Plans are available for review during regular township office hours, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact the office in advance to set up an appointment.