Planning panel opposes pot amendment

Marijuana seized by the state police.

Marijuana seized by the state police.

The city council's attempt to keep medical marijuana dispensaries out of Albany once state rules allowing them take effect in March may have hit a bump. On Monday night, the city planning commission recommended against a proposed change in the city development code intended to ban dispensaries but seemingly banning all pot.
The change, as proposed by the city council, would have the city ban the use of any parcel of land or structure "for, or in  conjunction with, an activity that violates any state or federal law prohibiting the manufacture, distribution, dispensation or possession of any controlled substance" as defined in federal law." The language appears to ban not just marijuana stores but also the use of medical marijuana itself anywhere in town.

The land use amendment had been proposed by four members of the city council after Councilor Bessie Johnson raised the issue, saying she wanted to keep dispensaries out of the city.

Monday's hearing lasted nearly three hours and drew an audience estimated at nearly 100 at the start. More than two dozen testified, all but three opposed to the amendment. At the end the commission's vote to recommend denying the proposed amendment was unanimous.

"Now it's back in our bailiwick," said City Councilman Ray Kopczynski, an opponent of the ban sought by the council majority. The city council could go against the planning commission recommendation and approve the code amendment anyway. A public hearing before the council is scheduled on Feb 26. (hh)

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