Dover weighing options for marijuana businesses

By Mike Finney
Posted 4/11/24

It appears that most of Dover's Legislative, Finance and Administrative Committee is leaning toward a conservative route for implementation of the Delaware Marijuana Control Act locally.

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Dover weighing options for marijuana businesses


DOVER — It appears that most of the city’s Legislative, Finance and Administrative Committee is leaning toward a conservative route for implementation of the Delaware Marijuana Control Act locally.

On Tuesday, they received an overview from city manager Dave Hugg and Ann Marie Townsend, senior project manager at the Rossi Group, to gain insight about how to regulate cannabis businesses.

“If we don’t come up with something, then the state’s going to determine (this), and, of course, we won’t control our own destiny,” said Councilman David Anderson, the committee’s chair.

Following the discussion, Councilman Fred Neil made a motion that city staff return with a recommendation based on what they heard Tuesday. The move passed unanimously.

Meanwhile, members of the committee appear to be favoring potentially allowing commercial marijuana facilities in certain zones — mostly along the highway corridor — but not downtown.

“We want to just ... say, ‘Here we are. Here’s kind of your options,’ and we wanted to make sure we’re on the right track,” Mr. Hugg said. “It sounds to me like there’s places where you don’t want to see the activity occur and things you have concerns about — things like spacing and distance (between such establishments).”

He also noted that the sale of marijuana will not bring an economic boom to Dover, saying it will have little effect on the city’s finances, particularly because municipalities are not entitled to a specific stream of tax revenue from the substance’s sales.

The city will also have to consider whether an ordinance should address medical marijuana locations, which are distinct from the ones selling recreational cannabis. Best Buds Dispensary, on Jefferic Boulevard, is the only such location in Dover presently.

Several Delaware municipalities — such as Dagsboro, Dewey Beach, Bethany Beach, Rehoboth Beach and Seaford — have chosen to ban marijuana establishments since the Marijuana Control Act passed last year.

A common worry in those towns was that those facilities could lead to increased crime, traffic or other unwanted results.

Additionally, odor has been cited as a concern surrounding indoor cultivation and manufacturing sites.

Roundtable discussion offers insight

During Tuesday’s meeting, Councilman Anderson opened a roundtable discussion to gain consensus on the committee members’ views.

“I tend to agree with the conservative approach,” Councilman Gerald Rocha said. “Personally, I don’t want to smell it. I don’t think we should have open recreational marijuana being smoked in public places, like the downtown area.

“But, in reference to the businesses and dispensaries, the conservative (view is) not downtown but maybe on the highway, if at all. … I believe if (using marijuana is) what you’re going to engage in, you’ll go where you need to go get it.”

The councilman also expressed worry about smoke shops having large amounts of cash on hand and possibly increased crime, such as robberies.

Committee member Anne Smith agreed.

“I choose the conservative approach. I don’t think it should be permitted in the downtown area or around schools, churches, areas where the community meets,” she said.

Further, committee member Daniel Shevock was adamant in his stance about not allowing marijuana facilities in the capital city.

“I’ve seen what happens with this drug, and it’s not pleasant,” he said. “I, being on the conservative side, don’t want to see this in Dover at all.”

‘It’s just another business’

If Dover chooses to allow marijuana locations, then it may control where they are able to operate via the zoning code, Mr. Hugg explained.

Items to consider in drafting an ordinance include which zones will allow the sites and whether these will be conditional or permitted uses.

There are four types of cannabis industry permits, so an ordinance would need to specify which regulated uses are permitted in each zone, such as cultivation, manufacturing, testing and/or retail, the city manager added.

For his part, Councilman Neil said legal marijuana use is here, and it is not going away.

“If I’d have my druthers, I would rather not have legalized marijuana, but it’s here,” he said. “Surprisingly, if somebody’s smoking in Camden, the smoke is going to come over the line. It doesn’t recognize that there is a city line.”

Councilman Neil added that he thinks marijuana dispensaries are worth considering due to the property taxes the city would receive, as well as the income employees could spend in the local economy.

“This is just another business. It’s another business that is located here,” he said.

The city’s Council Committee of the Whole also debated the Marijuana Control Act at a meeting last September, during which there were 19 public comments given in opposition to a ban on recreational marijuana establishments in Dover.

Potential benefits were cited, such as replacing the illegal market with a regulated industry, leading to increased product safety and economic development.

During Tuesday’s talk, Councilman Andre Boggerty had a little bit of fun with the topic at hand.

“I know Crumbl Cookies is going to be happy,” he said, with a laugh.

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