A moratorium on medical marijuana businesses in Springfield will expire soon and city commissioners must decide whether to let it lapse or continue to ban them.
Commissioners placed a six-month moratorium on new medical marijuana-related businesses in August 2016. That came after Gov. John Kasich signed a bill making cannabis legal for medical use under state law last year.
The city extended the temporary ban in February in order to allow staff members to research if they would have to change any local zoning or other laws because of the state’s new regulations. The extended moratorium now will end on July 5.
Ohio is the 25th state to legalize medical marijuana, even though it’s still illegal to use under federal laws. The state’s law doesn’t allow marijuana to be smoked or grown at home. It will have to be used in patches, vapors, edibles or other forms.
Other communities such as Beavercreek, Piqua and Troy have also extended bans. Other cities, including Yellow Springs and Johnstown in Licking County, hope to reap economic benefits from medical marijuana.
The state program would issue building permits, certificates of occupancy or change of use permits for cultivators, processors or retail sellers of medical marijuana.
City staff presented their research on the background of the program as well as the various sectors of cultivation, processing and testing of medical marijuana to city commissioners last week.
Shannon Meadows, community development director for the city of Springfield, said the city’s existing zoning codes are appropriate to handle medical marijuana cultivation, dispensing and processing if city commissioners want to allow it.
“Staff did deliver the opinion that the medical marijuana program designed by the state of Ohio and regulated and administered by the Department of Commerce and Board of Pharmacy has no unique land use effects on property in the city of Springfield,” Meadows said.
A small area in the city could qualify for growing, Mayor Warren Copeland said.
“A lot of locations would qualify for the dispensary and a medium range of where you can do the processing,” he said.
Springfield leaders have a few options — they could ban the businesses, extend the moratorium again, or just let it lapse and allow the businesses to operate.
“The city commission may prohibit the cultivation, dispensing and processing of medical marijuana in the city of Springfield because it is illegal under federal law,” Meadows said.
The mayor said he doesn’t know where all of the commissioners stand on the issue but believes everyone is trying to educate themselves.
“I’m not sure we as individuals have made our minds up yet,” Copeland said.
Renea Turner owns Champion City Sports Club in downtown Springfield and has said she wants to get into the medical marijuana business. Allowing medical marijuana businesses would breathe life back into the city, she said, including better-paying jobs.
“You would be able to buy homes, the economy will start going up,” Turner said. “That tax revenue that will go to the city will be amazing and it will help the first responders.”
The Springfield News-Sun has provided extensive coverage of medical marijuana laws, including stories digging into the new rules and how local communities are responding to them.