Springfield places 6-month moratorium on medical marijuana businesses

The moratorium comes nearly three months after Gov. John Kasich signed a bill making cannabis legal for medical use under state law. That will go into effect next week, making Ohio the 25th state to legalize medical marijuana, even though its 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.

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The moratorium will give staff members extra time to research how to proceed with these types of facilities, Springfield City Commissioner Dan Martin said.

“It makes sense to take some time and make sure it’s done right,” Martin said. “We have a lot places in Springfield where you have potential commercial properties wherever this may fall in, which could be right next to people’s houses or neighborhoods.”

Springfield resident Renea Turner, owner of the Champion City Sports Club on North Fountain Avenue, said medical marijuana businesses could bring many jobs to Springfield. She wants to open a dispensary, training center and research facility in Springfield.

The state licenses will likely be ready to be passed out before the moratorium is over, Turner said, which will force her to look for another location. The business could relocate to Dayton or Cincinnati, she said.

“There are so many places that are welcoming this business plan,” Turner said.

Earlier this year, Turner and the Ohio Cannabis Nurses Association held an information meeting at her sports club in Springfield. She also spent time at the Statehouse working to pass the legislation, she said.

Turner also spoke with city commissioners and staff members about the benefits of her business model, she said. She plans to speak to commissioners at their next meeting on Sept. 13.

“It’s a slap in the face to my community,” Turner said.

Beavercreek, Miamisburg, Clayton and Troy have enacted similar legislation to Springfield.

Springfield City Commissioner Kevin O’Neill believes the city should act now before someone tries to slip something past commissioners.

“They say an ounce of caution is better than a pound of cure,” O’Neill said. “There’s a lot of moving parts to this right now … If there’s a dime to be made, someone will be at the forefront of it.”

Springfield doesn’t need to be the guinea pig who makes all the mistakes, City Commissioner Karen Duncan said.

“Let other people figure out the process and decide whether or not it’s a good fit for our community,” she said.

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.

While marijuana grown in Ohio is months away from being available, those with doctor’s notes can use medical marijuana from other states starting Thursday. A 14-member Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee will be created to develop regulations for the industry, according to the new law.

The Ohio Department of Commerce, Ohio State Medical Board and Board of Pharmacy will supervise the use of medical marijuana in the state — which has to be grown, processed and dispensed in licensed facilities, Springfield Law Director Jerry Strozdas said.

The Ohio medical marijuana program is expected to be fully operational in about two years.

>>DETAILS: $1.8M in state funds go to regulating medical marijuana in Ohio

“The system is nowhere near in place yet,” Strozdas said.

A few Ohio cities and villages are taking a different approach, including Huber Heights and Johnstown.

Huber Heights opted to not pass a moratorium because it might hamper future development, Councilman Glenn Otto told this news organization last month.

“I believe that would send the wrong message out to whatever future possibilities we might have,” Otto said.

While medical marijuana will be legal in Ohio this week, a lot of rules need to be sorted out, said state Rep. Kyle Koehler, R-Springfield, who voted in favor of the new law.

The bill included options for municipalities that might not want these facilities in their communities, he said.

“It’s their prerogative,” Koehler said. “We didn’t want to force it down anybody’s throat.”

Several local residents have spoken with Koehler on both sides of the issue — some who want to open dispensaries here and others who don’t want it near them.

The bill wasn’t passed by Ohio lawmakers to become a money maker for local governments, Koehler said.

“We’re doing this to help people in the state of Ohio,” he said. “There are individuals who are feeding their children opiate-laced drugs because that’s the current remedy in Ohio.”

Some states have seen opiate overdoses decrease after medical marijuana legislation was passed, he said.

“If that’s the case, then we’re going to hopefully solve two issues here,” Koehler said. “That’s a win-win there.”

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