OH: Berea City Council Enacts Six-Month Medical Marijuana Moratorium

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Ron Strider

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Berea City Council members voted 4-2 at their Oct. 16 meeting to establish a six-month moratorium on occupancy permits for medical marijuana entrepreneurs who want to establish businesses in the city. Councilmen Gene Zacharyasz and Rick Skoczen voted no, and Councilman Jim Maxwell was absent.

"No building permits, certificates of occupancy or any other permits shall be granted to any business owner who intends to open, use any land or devote any floor area to the business for purposes of the cultivation, processing or retail dispensing of medical marijuana for the period of this moratorium," the council resolution reads. "No valid existing business in the city may expand in any way that would establish cultivation, processing or retail dispensing of medical marijuana for the duration of the moratorium."

Prior to the vote, Zacharyasz said he was "not opposed to having medical marijuana in the forms that they're talking about through the state guidelines" but asked about possible future restrictions the city could legislate if recreational marijuana use ever becomes legal in Ohio. Law Director Barb Jones replied that without knowing what future state legislation would say, it is "a little more difficult to answer with any certainty."

"Unless a use is explicitly delineated in the (city) zoning code, it's prohibited," Jones explained. "The reason why medical marijuana is contemplated in our zoning code is because you get it by prescription. There are certain districts where you can have sales of prescription items. We would likely take the initial position that the (recreational) use isn't permitted because it's not listed. Whether or not that would withstand scrutiny down the line, I don't know."

She estimated it would take three months to change the zoning code at any point in time because it would have to pass through planning commission and public hearings. Council could amend the zoning to create a special use. Jones added, however, she doesn't anticipate the legalization of recreational marijuana in Ohio anytime soon.

Council representatives Cheryl Banaszak and Nick Haschka recommended passage of the moratorium to allow further study of the medical marijuana issue.

"I think we need a lot more time to think about this," Haschka said.

Banaszak said the moratorium will "give us the time that we need to figure if we want this, where we want it and have all the i's dotted and t's crossed."

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