Owner appeals decision to reject medical marijuana dispensary near Pasadena

A company whose application to open a medical marijuana dispensary near Pasadena was rejected has appealed the decision, arguing that it meets Anne Arundel County requirements.

Maryland Physician Partners LLC’s bid to open a dispensary at 7609 Energy Parkway in Brandon Woods Business Park was rejected in April because the property did not immediately abut an arterial or higher classified road.

In the May 3 appeal, owner Dr. Gina Berman and attorney Joseph F. Devlin said the rejection of the Arizona firm’s application “was against the weight of the evidence, contrary to law, arbitrary and capricious, and improper.”

The special application “meets all of the requirements for special exception approval” for a medical cannabis dispensary in a business complex in the district, Devlin wrote in a June 7 letter.

“In light of the fact that the use is proposed for a business complex on industrial zoned property, vehicular access from an arterial road is not required,” Devlin wrote.

The proposed dispensary’s landlord is Ravinder Melhi, 56, of Clarksville, who had been federally charged in 2011 along with her husband in a scheme to illegally distribute untaxed cigarettes and alcohol, The Baltimore Sun reported at the time.

Melhi pleaded guilty to conspiracy arising from a scheme to illegally access a protected Motor Vehicle Administration computer for commercial and personal gain, according to the FBI.

She was sentenced to 18 months of probation and ordered to pay a $25,000 fine.

U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein, now the deputy attorney general, indicated at the time that the charges against Melhi and her husband, Amrik Singh Melhi, were connected to the corruption investigation into then-Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson and his wife.

Melhi’s attorney at the time denied any connection to the Johnson investigation, which resulted in a more than seven-year prison sentence for the politician.

Melhi said Monday she was charged unfairly in the case after simply calling the MVA to run a check on what turned out to be a fake ID. She said investigators gave her no choice but to plead guilty to the charges and pay the fine.

“They made me to accept the thing and say I did it,” Melhi said. “I didn’t use an MVA computer, I just called and checked an ID.

“The case has been closed, It’s done.”

Landlords of proposed marijuana dispensaries are not required to undergo background checks unless they have a 5 percent or greater ownership stake in the business, according to Jennifer White, spokeswoman for the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission.

Melhi said she is not involved with Maryland Physician Partners’ application process to open the dispensary — merely the owner of the property.

Company officials showed Melhi they had been given preliminary approval before she agreed to take them on as a tenant, she said, and she signed the special exception application as the landlord, not a stakeholder.

“It’s not my license, I’m not part of the business, I’m just the landlord,” she said. “They pay me monthly rent.”

Berman declined to comment Monday.

Anne Arundel County has some of the tightest marijuana dispensary rules in the state. Maryland Physician Partners and other applicants have complained of difficulties finding locations that meet all requirements without needing variances.

Of 11 marijuana applications, nine have requested variances. The county’s Planning and Zoning Office has recommended denial of every variance.

Berman and her attorneys have previously argued that restrictive county requirements made it impossible to find any available location that met all of the criteria.

The Energy Parkway location needed only one variance, which was denied, and met all of the residential requirements. It took seven months to find that location, Berman said in a previous interview.

The site also must have access to an arterial or higher classification road. Arterial roads are classified as such because they serve longer trips and connect higher density residential, commercial and industrial areas.

A hearing on Maryland Physician Partners’ appeal is scheduled for Jan. 10, according to the Anne Arundel County Board of Appeals.

cmcampbell@baltsun.com

twitter.com/cmcampbell6

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