OH: Area Communities Debate Medical Marijuana Restrictions


Some Stark County communities are taking it slow when it comes to legalized medical marijuana.

Plain Township will hold a public hearing at 12:30 p.m. Thursday to discuss what the township should do with marijuana-based operations.

Ohio legalized medical marijuana in certain forms and for certain health conditions earlier this year with House Bill 523. State law also allows local jurisdictions to restrict or deter marijuana from being cultivated, processed or sold within their borders.

The law takes effect Thursday, the same day as Plain’s hearing.

“The board does not want to allow even a day to pass without any action for the fear that someone is out there waiting to jump on this thing,” said Trustee Scott Haws.

The township is trying to determine the potential impact of medical marijuana, said Tom Ferrara, planning, zoning and development director.

Without some regulation, parts of the township could become clusters of marijuana businesses, including retail shops, he said.

He likened it to the rise of skill-game businesses a few years ago.

“If you don’t have restrictions at all … you don’t have any control of where they are or how many of them there are,” he said.

The township could use zoning to limit the number of marijuana businesses or where they can be placed. They could also decide to outlaw them altogether, Ferrara said.

Finding the right solution won’t happen right away, he said. “It takes time to get it right.”

North Canton

North Canton City Council introduced legislation Aug. 22 that would place a six-month moratorium on any marijuana businesses from setting up shop in the city.

The state hasn’t been forthcoming with information on how the law will operate, said North Canton Law Director Tim Fox at the meeting.

The moratorium would prevent the city from granting any permits, or permit changes, for marijuana-based operations, he said.

That delay will give the city time to study the law, Fox said. “I imagine it would have a tremendous impact on the community for those who don’t plan for it.”

It would also send a message to those starting marijuana operations in Stark County: Maybe North Canton isn’t the best place to invest, he said.

Lake Township

Lake Township trustees will consider banning medical cannabis business the same day the state law takes effect.

A special meeting to discuss and vote on a resolution prohibiting medical marijuana cultivators, dispensaries and processors is set for 8:45 a.m. Thursday at Lake Township Hall.

Trustee John Arnold, a member of the Community Cares Committee that works with schools to promote drug prevention, said he believes marijuana is a “gateway drug” to more dangerous options.

“My responsibility is to do anything and everything I can to ensure a safe environment for our youth,” he said.
Arnold said the township plans to remain a drug-free workplace as well.


So far, Canton legislators haven’t broached the subject.

“I’ll float it by city administrators, but at this point, no one has made any inquiries,” said Canton Law Director Joseph Martuccio.

State law already includes restrictions on marijuana, he said.

Canton probably doesn’t have any areas capable of growing marijuana. And because it can only be acquired by prescription, any businesses associated with medical marijuana are likely to be dispensaries, Martuccio said.

“I don’t imagine that we’re going to have a lot of shady characters floating around all types of locations trying to get a medical marijuana prescription,” he said.

Those prescriptions will be tightly controlled by doctors; “this isn’t about folks hanging out. I think they’ll be steps in place,” he said.

Martuccio said he’s spent lots of time visiting Colorado, a state that legalized both medical and recreational marijuana usage. Most of the complaints there are about the smell of marijuana being smoked, he said.

Ohio law prohibits smoking, so that’s unlikely to be an issue here, he added.

The use of plant material, edibles, patches, tinctures and oils is OK.

Statewide reactions

Similar discussions are happening across Ohio.

“We’ve seen a handful of communities across Ohio either adopt a moratorium or, in a few instances, an outright ban,” said Aaron Marshall, spokesman for Ohioans for Medical Marijuana.

The advocacy group, supported by the national Marijuana Policy Project, campaigned for a ballot initiative before the state passed its own legislation. Marshall said small towns and townships have proposed most of the limitations.

In Tuscarawas County, New Philadelphia has scheduled a public hearing and vote about prohibiting dispensaries for Wednesday. Dover has proposed an ordinance to ban dispensaries in the city and employee use of medical marijuana.

Several other cities, primarily in southwest Ohio, have approved or are considering temporary bans on medical marijuana business. One city northwest of Columbus that’s home to a plant-oil extraction company, Johnstown, went the other direction by passing a resolution to welcome cannabis cultivation.

Marshall said any efforts to restrict patient access at this point are “premature.”

“From our point of view, it’s jumping the gun because the rules and regulations surrounding medical marijuana in Ohio are going to be sorted out over the next year to 18 months,” he said.

Josh Brown, spokesman for the Ohio Municipal League, said unresolved issues have prompted most cities to use caution. Local ordinances, zoning codes and employment policies might need to be adjusted.

“It’s still an illegal drug under federal law, so I think that makes it a very complex and difficult issue,” he said.
Brown said the state legislation gives cities a lot of autonomy to make decisions on a “case-by-case basis.” He advises city officials to consult with their attorneys, who can contact the Ohio Municipal Attorneys Association for guidance.

The attorneys association, an affiliate of the municipal league, is hosting webinars on medical marijuana Oct. 7 and Oct. 20. Brown said the sessions are in response to city leader’s questions.

“I think they’re all going to try to take it really slowly at first,” he said.

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Full Article: Area Communities Debate Medical Marijuana Restrictions
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