- Michael Cooper Staff Writer
The city of Springfield ended its temporary ban on medical marijuana businesses Wednesday, a week after the state said it will allow up to two dispensaries in the region covering Clark, Champaign and Union counties.
However one city commissioner wanted to extend the moratorium to allow more time for commissioners to discuss a ban on these types of businesses.
PRIOR COVERAGE: Springfield extends medical marijuana moratorium until September
Clark, Champaign and Union counties have been allotted a total of two dispensaries — essentially a retail store where medical marijuana will be distributed, according to the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program.
City Commissioners didn’t vote Tuesday on the issue, opting to allow the moratorium to expire and opening the door for prospective businesses to pursue sites in Springfield. City Commissioner Kevin O’Neill motioned to extend the moratorium for another 45 days to allow commissioners to consider an outright ban but no other commissioners agreed to put the issue to a vote.
“I don’t know that Springfield should even be involved in it,” O’Neill said. “We’re a nice community. They’re going to be able to get it other places and use it in their own homes. We needed to decide that as a commission and let the people know if we were for it or against it.”
The expiration of the moratorium means city commissioners likely won’t discuss the issue again, O’Neill said.
“It’s over,” he said.
The city has had a few inquiries about medical marijuana businesses, including one call from a real estate agent looking for sites for a dispensary. It’s possible more calls will come in once the moratorium expires, said Tom Franzen, assistant city manager and director of economic development.
“We’re a big market, right in the city,” Franzen said.
City commissioners first placed a six-month temporary ban in August 2016 on new medical marijuana-related businesses. That came after Gov. John Kasich signed a bill in 2016 making cannabis legal in Ohio for medical use.
The city extended the temporary ban in February for another six months to allow staff members to research whether they would have to change any local zoning regulations or other laws because of the state’s new regulations. In July, the moratorium was extended again until Wednesday, allowing time for staff members to review final rules for dispensing and processing businesses that were released earlier this month.
After reviewing the state rules, the city’s existing zoning codes are appropriate to handle medical marijuana cultivation, dispensing, testing and processing, Community Development Director Shannon Meadows said.
“We found there was really no reason to recommend anything unique within the zoning code to deal with that which falls under the medical marijuana program,” Meadows said.
City Commissioner Dan Martin had concerns about residents using medical marijuana on-site at dispensaries and driving home, but that’s prohibited by the state’s program, he said. He had a few concerns about language in the rules, but believes the licenses to dispense will be similar to liquor licenses that are overseen by the state.
“I don’t think we’re going to be able to have much say in that anyway,” he said. “Our role as a community is just to be diligent if we have this come to Springfield. I recognize it has the ability to help people, but I see it could be something where there’s some misuse.”
After researching the issue, City Commissioner Joyce Chilton said the program will help people with chronic illnesses.
“They have pain and they’re looking for some relief,” she said.
Last week, the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program and the State Board of Ohio Pharmacy announced it will accept dispensary applications from Nov. 3 to 17. A total of 60 dispensaries will be allowed in four different regions throughout Ohio, including 15 in southwestern Ohio.
Locally, the district has been broken down into eight areas. Southwest District 8, which includes Clark, Champaign and Union counties, will have two dispensaries. Montgomery and Hamilton counties will each have three dispensaries, the lone counties not combined with others for the program.
The districts were created using multiple criteria, including patient populations and access to major roadways.
Dispensary owners must pay a $5,000 application fee, a $70,000 certificate of operation fee and have $250,000 in the bank to cover operating expenses.
Cultivator licenses are expected to be awarded in November, according to the program.
Ohio is the 25th state to legalize medical marijuana, even though it’s still illegal 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.
The medical marijuana program is expected to be operational by September of 2018. Applications and more information can be found online at medicalmarijuana.ohio.gov.
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