Warren could soon be the first town in the East Bay to allow the private and commercial growing of medical marijuana, following a vote of the Warren Town Council Tuesday evening.
After more than a year’s worth of discussion, the council on Tuesday approved the first reading of an ordinance that would allow the cultivation of the drug, either by right or through a special use permit, in each of the town’s 13 zoning districts.
The ordinance closely mimics state law regarding the placement of growing operations, and must still be reviewed by the Warren Planning Board before a public hearing on the matter is held at the council’s February meeting.
The ordinance was prompted by Warren resident Patrick Rimoshytus, who last year sought to open a commercial medical marijuana growing operation on New Industrial Drive. Since cultivation anywhere in town was not addressed one way or another in the zoning ordinance, he was unable to move forward with his plan and soon after sought to have the council address the matter in the ordinance.
On Friday, he said the council’s willingness to consider the matter and adjust zoning to accommodate growers will be a boon not only to Rhode Island residents who hold medical marijuaja licenses, but to the town as a whole:
“It’s a historic moment, because they’ve recognized marijuana as a usable substance, as far as medicine is concerned. “I think it’s going to allow some of the larger open buildings to be able to be used. It will create jobs here in town; it might not be a lot of jobs but it will be jobs in the industry.”
What would be allowed, and where?
Under the proposed ordinance change, those allowed to grow medical marijuana here would have to be licensed by the state Department of Business Regulation and would be broken into four categories: Non-residential cooperative cultivators, residential cooperative cultivators, personal cultivators and licensed cultivators.
Non-residential co-ops would consist of two or more medical marijuana card holders who would be allowed to cultivate on land, or in a building, which is not a residence.
Residential co-ops would consist of two or more card holders who would be allowed to grow in their home.
Personal cultivators, meaning a single cardholder, would be allowed to grow within their residences.
Finally, licensed cultivators include “any person or entity who has been licensed by the department of business regulation to cultivate marijuana.”
Residential co-ops and personal cultivators would be allowed by right to open growing operations in any of the town’s 13 zoning districts, without the need for a special use permit.
Non-residential growers would be allowed to operate in the town’s village business, business, waterfront, special district, manufacturing, commercial industrial, farm conservation and rural business zones, with a special use permit. And licensed cultivators would be allowed to operate in the same zones as non-residential growers, apart from the waterfront zone, where growing would not be a permitted use.
Non-residential and licensed cultivators would not be allowed to grow in any of the town’s residentially zoned areas, including the R-6, 10, 15, 20 and 40 zones. Within those zones, those who seek to grow would have to follow strict guidelines.
Under the proposal, the ordinance requires that operations “will not adversely affect the use of any property used for a school, public or private park, playground, play field, youth center, licensed day-care center, or any other location where groups of minors regularly congregate.”
Growing operations must be “sufficiently buffered in relation to any residential area,” “must be consistent with the exterior appearance of existing structures within the immediate neighborhood, so as to prevent blight or deterioration, or substantial diminishment or impairment of property values.”
Licensed and non-resident operations in the B, CI, FC, RB and W zoning districts must not be within 100 feet of the nearest residential district.
No operations, regardless of category, would be allowed within 1,000 feet of a school.
Lighting, security/alarm systems and security measures would be required “in order to provide proper security“ and to deter and prevent the unauthorized entrance into areas containing marijuana.”
Anyone wishing to grow must submit a site plan to the Zoning Board of Review, which will review it with the town’s zoning official.
After the planning board reviews the proposed ordinance, the council will hold a public hearing on the matter on Tuesday, Feb. 13, and afterwards put the matter to a vote.