TAKOMA PARK – First, Taco Bell. Then, pot.
On Monday, the City Council approved a site plan to locate a Taco Bell restaurant along New Hampshire Avenue by a 5-2 vote.
Council members also discussed what to do about allowing medical marijuana dispensaries to set up in the city.
Maryland legalized medical cannabis in the last legislative session and while no one has currently applied to open a medical dispensary in the city, council members discussed the possibility of it happening here.
However, the state may issue only two licenses in each state senatorial district.
Applications for state licenses for growers, processors, and dispensers are due Nov. 6.
Montgomery County regards dispensaries as retail use, for purposes of zoning and planning.
Community Development manager Rosalind Grigsby presented potential options such as a zoning text amendment which would give dispensaries limited or conditional standards.
Those include how close they can set up near schools and other dispensaries.
A community impact agreement would also require the licensee to agree to participate in some of the city’s sustainability initiatives.
Jeffrey Kahn, who operates the Takoma Wellness Center dispensary in the District, said dispensaries can be located anywhere in D.C.
Kahn answered council questions about dispensaries and explained the presence of medical marijuana in Washington was unobtrusive in the community.
“Actually, the biggest problem that we’ve faced in the District is that demand has far stripped supply,” said Kahn.
Kahn also explained the security measures at his dispensary, claiming breaking in would be difficult and the would-be burglar would have to pass armed guards, cameras and a strengthened safe.
Should the burglar pass those measures, Kahn said that person could not steal anything more than a few grams of marijuana and a couple thousand dollars.
When council member Terry Seamens asked about someone hypothetically being arrested if found with the drug, Grigsby pointed out the state’s registration system for medical marijuana consumers should alleviate concerns.
However, exactly what would happen is unclear as regulations over dispensaries develop.
“There should be a de-emphasis on enforcement and it’s not something that they look to go after. It’s incidental to some other reason for stopping somebody,” said Mayor Bruce Williams. “I think it’ll take some discussion about how this plays out (because) I thought that’s an interesting question that he asked and I’m not sure what the answer is.”
Council member Seth Grimes, who is not running for re election, said he was unsure about what will happen with the next council.
“On medical marijuana dispensaries, in my opinion it is far from the largest, most significant issue for the Takoma Park City Council,” said Grimes.