When we think of marijuana, we often associate it with being an illegal substance. However, this is quickly shifting across the nation as many states now allow the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, or even recreationally.
In Pennsylvania, marijuana is legal for medical purposes through the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act of 2016. It can be administered to treat a variety of serious medical conditions such as cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder, epilepsy, autism, intractable pain – and the list goes on.
The PA Medical Marijuana program is organized through the Department of Health under Act 16, which allows them to issue permits, register practitioners, perform regulatory and enforcement functions, and complete other related activities. While both the growing and processing of medical marijuana is legal in PA, Act 16 requires specific permits for the two operations – and at this time they cannot be combined. However, both the growing and processing of medical marijuana provide different opportunities for local investment, economic growth, and employment.
In order for a municipality to allow a medical marijuana grower or processor to open, they must first have the appropriate zoning regulations set in place before the Department of Health will consider an application. Municipalities should ensure that their zoning regulations are consistent with the provisions of Act 16, and may prefer to keep the zoning regulations basic (primarily refer to Act 16), rather than having to reassess if the Act is amended and the information becomes outdated.
Under the current Act 16, all medical marijuana must be grown, processed, and distributed in an indoor, enclosed facility in the state of PA. This requirement provides a great opportunity for the adaptive reuse of spaces such as underutilized warehouses or strip-mall shopping centers, which can be zoned specifically for these purposes. (Section 2107 of Act 6 provides information most relevant to zoning considerations in PA.)
In addition to medicinal benefits, marijuana also provides numerous economic benefits which support the “Prosper” goal in Landscapes3 (Chester County’s comprehensive plan), and growing medical marijuana can help to promote recycled resources (such as reused irrigation water, latent heat, carbon dioxide, and solar wind and power) which further support the “Connect” goal.
Some current examples of medical marijuana zoning in Chester County can be seen in Upper Uwchlan Township, where dispensaries are regulated in the C-1 Village and C-3 Highway Commercial Districts and medical marijuana grower/processors are regulated in the Limited Industrial and Planned Industrial/Office Districts, as well as in West Goshen Township, the Borough of Oxford, and West Chester – with more township zoning currently underway.
To learn more about medical marijuana in Chester County, please visit https://www.chescoplanning.org/MuniCorner/eTools/57-MedicalMarijuana.cfm.
The Planning Commission’s eTools cover a wide array of planning topics, from natural resources to economic development. The tools are easy to read, providing a quick overview of each topic, a brief explanation of how it works, and considerations for addressing the topic or reg