Betting the Farm: Nuisance in the Time of Pennsylvania Cannabis

Articles & Publications

Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis Society
May 23, 2016

On April 17, 2016, Governor Wolf signed Act 16 of 2016 (“Act 16”), the Medical Marijuana Act, making Pennsylvania the 24th state (in addition to the District of Columbia) to legalize marijuana for medical use. The Act generally sets forth two classes of licenses: one for growers/processors, essentially the “manufacturers” of product, and a second for dispensaries where a patient will receive medication. Also included among its provisions is language governing where licensed facilities can operate. While advocates, entrepreneurs, and other interested parties await formal Regulations from the Department of Health which will serve to govern how Act 16 will be implemented, the law has generated a significant amount of dialogue around its provisions, including those which apply to those interested in pursuing a license in this new industry.

Notable in the bill are general requirements affecting those individuals and businesses seeking to enter the industry. Specifically, Act 16 provides for the issuance of 25 grower/processor licenses, and 50 dispensary licenses. Each dispensary license may operate in up to three locations, provide for up to 150 dispensaries for the sale of medical marijuana in the Commonwealth. Act 16 also provides that neither a grower/processor nor a dispensary can be located in a residential dwelling or an area zoned for residential use. Further, a dispensary cannot be located within 1,000 feet of the property line of a public, private, or parochial school or daycare center. Under an earlier draft of the law growers and processors were separated into two distinct classes with dispensaries representing the third. However, under Act 16 which was signed by Governor Wolf, a grower/processor is included as one class of marijuana business. Therefore, this marriage of agriculture and manufacturing will likely present additional challenges to a local authorities and start-up businesses. Also omitted from Act 16 was a reference to the Protection of Agricultural Operations from Nuisance Suits and Ordinances P.L. 454, No.133 (1982), otherwise known as the “Right to Farm Law.” It is here where much discussion has been generated among farmers, municipalities, those seeking to enter the industry from the production side and interested parties alike.

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