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Medical marijuana forces zoning code changes

One year ago, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed legislation that made the growing and sale of marijuana for medical purposes legal in the commonwealth. Now, county boards and zoning boards in the Philadelphia suburbs and elsewhere are beginning to consider how their zoning ordinances must be changed to accommodate the limited legalization of marijuana.

Medical marijuana is used to treat 17 different painful and disabling physical conditions, including autism, cancer, epilepsy and Parkinson's disease. The legislation authorizes several forms of medical marijuana, including pills, ointments and gels, but marijuana cigarettes remain prohibited. Therefore, the cannabis plant must undergo significant processing before it can be lawfully sold for medical uses.

A recent action by the board of commissioners in Aston Township shows the kinds of changes that are underway. The board voted unanimously to amend the township zoning ordinance to allow the construction of growing and processing facilities for medical marijuana in limited industrial districts. Dispensaries of the drug are not be included. Any such project would require a conditional use permit. Shortly after amending the zoning ordinance, the board received an application from a private company for the required conditional use permit to construct a medical marijuana processing facility.

Other townships and counties are considering similar zoning changes. Also, the state is taking the first steps to implement a program to authorize marijuana processing facilities. One enormous uncertainty Pennsylvania residents may face is the effect of federal law, which does not allow medical use of marijuana, or this nascent business. Many other questions remain, and advice from an experienced real estate lawyer may be very helpful to anyone who is contemplating entering the business of growing, manufacturing or selling medical marijuana.

Source: CBS Philly, "Pennsylvania Township Changes Zoning Ordinance To Allow Medical Marijuana Growing Facility," Feb. 10, 2017

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