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Springfield extends medical marijuana moratorium

Springfield leaders extended a temporary ban on new medical marijuana-related businesses in the city for five more months, although one local business owner objected.

The original six-month moratorium was put in place last August, a few months after Gov. John Kasich signed a bill making cannabis legal for medical use under state law. Ohio was the 25th state to legalize medical marijuana, even though it’s still illegal to use under federal laws.

New building permits, certificates of occupancy or change of use permits for cultivators, processors or retail sellers of medical marijuana won’t be issued or processed in Springfield until the temporary ban is lifted.

If approved, the moratorium would be extended until July 5. City staff is expected to report back to commissioners on the status of medical marijuana in Ohio by May 29, according to public documents.

“There’s just so many things up in the air right now,” City Manager Jim Bodenmiller said. “The state is still going through its rule-making process. There’s just a lot of things to consider. Regardless of where you are on the issue, you want to be careful and make the right decisions for your community.”

The Ohio law doesn’t allow marijuana to be smoked. It will have to be used in patches, vapors, edibles or other forms. It also doesn’t allow for users to grow marijuana at home.

German Twp. recently passed a similar one-year moratorium, but township officials said they’re willing to reconsider the temporary ban based on state regulations or ideas from community members.

Many other communities such as Beavercreek, Piqua and Troy have also extended bans. Other cities, including Johnstown in Licking County, are hoping to reap the economic benefits of medical marijuana.

Springfield leaders want to know what the rules are going to be before making any decisions on dispensaries or growing operations, Bodenmiller said.

“It may serve a good purpose, but again until we know all the rules, we want to be careful,” he said.

Springfield resident Renea Turner, owner of the Champion City Sports Club on North Fountain Avenue, wanted to open a dispensary, training center and research facility in Springfield, which could bring many jobs to the city, she said. However, she’s planning to move the business elsewhere.

“It could put Springfield on the map,” Turner said. “Now it’s going to other counties that are welcoming the industry. My hope is still to help Springfield.”

She said she’s not surprised the city will move forward with extending its temporary ban.

With 40 licenses available, the odds of Springfield getting one have lessened quite a bit, she said. The moratorium will reduce those odds even further, Turner said.

Some businesses have targeted moving to areas with cannabis processors, which she said would bring tax dollars and jobs into the community. States that already have medical marijuana rules in place have seen economic growth in recent years, Turner said.

“We’re finding there are so many other good things happening besides the patients it will be taking care of,” she said. “It will help with the economy and the state.”

The roadblock is hurting Springfield, Turner said, not helping it. She believes medical marijuana could raise income taxes to help with the city’s deficit.

“It’s a well-rounded industry, just like the alcohol,” she said. “It’s basically history repeating itself with prohibition, but its cannabis.”

Turner hopes President Donald Trump will remove marijuana from the Schedule 1 controlled list and drop it to the Schedule 2 list, allowing insurance to cover it.

“The economy will be better all the way around,” Turner said.

Rules have been proposed, but are still going through the approval process at the state level. Up to 40 licenses may be issued for medical marijuana processors, who convert the plant material for patient use. Processors will have to pay a $100,000 fee for a license application, as well as a $90,000 certificate of operation fee. Annual renewal fees will be $100,000, according to proposed rules.

The proposed rules for processors spell out requirements for facility plans, access to capital, employee training, safety and ID cards, lab testing and inspections.

The program is being established and regulated by three state agencies: Board of Pharmacy, Department of Commerce and State Medical Board.

The state pharmacy board has also posted proposed rules that call for a ban on vaporizing medical marijuana by patients under 18, a limit on oil flavors and restrictions on marketing toward children.

The board is also proposing rules that define what constitutes a 90-day supply based on the THC content in different forms. Limits would include 4 to 6 ounces of plant material based on THC content, 40.5 grams of THC for oils for vaporizing, 19.8 grams of THC for trans-dermal patches and 9 grams of THC for edibles, oils and tinctures.

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