Smyrna Town Council members discussed an ordinance amendment at the March 10 council meeting that would enable compassion centers to sell medical marijuana in town.

The ordinance, if approved by council, will amend the town code to include compassion care centers and registered safety compliance facilities as a conditional use within the Industrial/Office/Research Park District in town.

Town lawyer Barrett Edwards said a few years ago the General Assembly amended the Delaware Code to authorize the sale of medical marijuana for medical purposes.

“We’re allowed to regulate the time, place and manner but we are not allowed to flat out ban them,” Edwards said.

He said that the purpose at the meeting was just to discuss the ordinance amendment, but that council wouldn’t be voting on the matter until a later meeting. The Planning & Zoning Commission has already approved the amendment.

“This is something that is pretty new for everyone. All this ordinance is going to do is clarify where compassion care centers and registered safety compliance facilities are prohibited in the Town of Smyrna,” Edwards said.

Based on the conditions, the compassion centers can’t be located within 1,000 feet of a public or private school. The center can’t be open on Saturday or Sunday. The ordinance originally said the centers can’t be open between the hours of 6 p.m. and 9 a.m.; however, council amended this to allow for the hours of operation to be 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., so the centers can’t be open from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m. Other conditions state no marijuana can be smoked or ingested on the premises, and no person under the age of 18 shall be permitted on the premises.

Councilwoman Valerie White asked if the town could make the conditions stricter, such as prohibiting the locations within 1,500 feet of a school rather than 1,000 feet.

Edwards said the state regulations are already pretty strict.

“Let’s say you draw a line of 1,500 feet from every single school. You could effectively prohibit them [compassion centers] from being located anywhere in town and that’s something we cannot do,” said Edwards. “These are already limited to the Industrial/Office/Research Park so you’re eliminating 85 percent of the town.”

Based on the regulations, compassion centers can only be in the business park on Artisan Drive or the future KRM Business Park north of Duck Creek.

Town Manager Dave Hugg said after the meeting a group is interested in bringing a compassion center to town. He said the group looked at the Commodore Commons on Route 13 but that location was too close to John Bassett Moore Intermediate School.

Councilwoman Andrea Rodriguez, who works in the healthcare field, said one way or another she thinks the herbs are a fantastic use for individuals with cancer or other diseases.

“To make it difficult to do that because of your own morals and established values would be detrimental to the people who need that,” Rodriguez said.

There will be a public hearing on the ordinance in April; council will be able to vote on the amendment at that meeting.