Doraville temporarily nips medical marijuana dispensaries in the bud

FORSYTH - Georgia’s medical marijuana law, authored by State Rep. Allen Peake, is known as Haleigh’s Hope Act and legalized the possession of cannabis oil for people suffering from a limited number of illnesses. (BITA HONARVAR/SPECIAL)

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FORSYTH - Georgia’s medical marijuana law, authored by State Rep. Allen Peake, is known as Haleigh’s Hope Act and legalized the possession of cannabis oil for people suffering from a limited number of illnesses. (BITA HONARVAR/SPECIAL)

In anticipation of medical marijuana dispensaries coming to town, Doraville issued a temporary ban on the newly legal industry to give city leaders time to decide how they’d like to regulate it.

The City Council unanimously voted Monday to issue a 90-day moratorium on businesses that sell medical cannabis, including THC oil and products. While there’s no current businesses focused on selling these products in Doraville, City Attorney Cecil McLendon said he’s heard there is interest in the metro Atlanta market.

“The (number of) dispensaries are limited,” McLendon said. “But I know they are looking at the metro area (to find) locations for dispensaries.”

State law dictates that only 30 medical marijuana oil dispensaries can open in Georgia. Recreational marijuana, which is illegal in Georgia, typically has a much higher proportion of THC than medicinal cannabis.

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The city’s current zoning code doesn’t include medical cannabis as a use, so McLendon said the industry would default to being regulated like pharmacies, which are allowed in any commercial areas. He’s not sure if the city will decide to add further regulations, but the 90-day period gives city staff time to figure it out.

“It’s going to be a new use in a sort of transitory type of area,” McLendon said. “It might need a little more analysis before determining how we want to handle that.”

In 2015, Gov. Nathan Deal legalized medicinal marijuana, and Gov. Brian Kemp expanded on the legalization in 2019 when he signed the Georgia’s Hope Act. It allows for the manufacturing and dispensing of oils with a THC content up to 5%. While there’s a statewide commission over licensing, it’s up to local governments to dictate zoning restrictions.

Doraville isn’t the first city to take this preemptive step. Alpharetta issued a similar moratorium in early September, and its city leaders decided to issue more stringent regulations on where medical marijuana dispensaries can operate.

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