Smithfield allows compassion centers in industrial zones

Smithfield allows compassion centers in industrial zones

SMITHFIELD – Medical marijuana compassion centers will be allowed in Smithfield’s industrial zones by special use permit following the final public hearing last week on the court-ordered updates to the town’s medical marijuana ordinance.

The Town Council accepted the Planning Board’s recommendation to allow compassion centers, non-residential cooperative cultivators, licensed cultivators and licensed manufacturers by special use permit in industrial zones.

According to Town Planner Michael Phillips, the state did not allow the town to remove dispensing or retail aspects from the ordinance at the council’s request.

Phillips said the laws need to comply with state law, which does not have restrictions on retail sales or dispensing medical marijuana.

“Basically, the changes involve the more commercial aspects of the medical marijuana use table,” Phillips said.

Medical marijuana emporiums will not be allowed in Smithfield under the new ordinance, nor are they allowed in the state, Phillips said.

The council passed the ordinance changes 4-0 on Jan. 7, with Sean Kilduff abstaining.

The original ordinance was repealed last September to be compliant with state laws after it caused legal troubles with the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island for being too restrictive.

The ACLU sued Smithfield in 2017 on behalf of Jane Doe I and II, who argued the town trampled on the protection and rights afforded under the state’s medical marijuana law and imposed burdens on patients’ access to treatment.

The town was ordered to pay $30,000 in attorney fees to the plaintiff and agreed to change the ordinance to conform to state law.

Initially, the law restricted the number of plants to two mature plants and two seedlings at only the patient’s primary residence, conflicting with state law allowing 12 mature plants with guidelines on where it can be grown.

The restrictive ordinance also asked for an invasive amount of information for medical marijuana cardholders in town. Both were changed last fall to comply with state law.

Town Solicitor Anthony Gallone said state law trumps municipal law, and in this case, the town resolved the discrepancies for patient care and cardholders. Individual and patient cultivators are allowed in residential zones.

He said the town felt industrial zones were the best fit for compassion centers and commercial cultivators.

In addition, the town created several standards for allowable commercial medical marijuana uses, including buffers from residential areas, a 200-foot setback from residential zones, and 1,000-foot setback from schools.