It may be up to one year before Stow could see any medical marijuana businesses coming into the city.
At its Sept. 20 meeting, Stow City Council approved a one-year moratorium on accepting applications for and issuing zoning certificates for operations involving the "cultivation, distribution or sale of medical marijuana."
The original legislation was for a six-month period, but Councilman Jim Costello proposed expanding it to one year; the amended legislation was then approved by full Council.
Law Director Amber Zibritosky said the purpose of the moratorium was to avoid a medical marijuana business coming in right now and being treated the same as retail.
Ohio House Bill 523 went into effect Sept. 8, allowing for medical marijuana to be prescribed. Zibritosky said the law "still needs to be tweaked" in terms of guidelines and regulations by the state.
The moratorium would allow the city to examine the issue and "see what is right for Stow" after the state completes its work. She said options for the city include outlawing businesses outright or issuing zoning changes.
She added there was no timeframe as to when the state would complete its regulations. "They have passed a fairly large law on this issue," Zibritosky said.
Councilman Brian D'Antonio asked if the new state law would conflict with current federal laws, which prohibit medical marijuana.
Zibritosky said while that is true concerning federal laws, the DEA has said it is not going to enforce that if a state passes this type of legislation. She added that could change with the upcoming election.
Councilman Bob Adaska, who voted against amending the legislation but did vote in favor of its final approval, said he thought 12 months was too long. He said after getting the medical marijuana issue on the ballot and approved, "you are telling people that want to push this forward . . . 'now you have to fight the city of Stow.' Twelve months is telling any investors 'Stay out, we don't want you.'"
Munroe Falls reconsiders its legislation
Meanwhile, at its Sept. 20 meeting, Munroe Falls City Council gave first reading to a resolution amending legislation it approved Sept. 6 for a six-month moratorium on medical marijuana businesses. The amended resolution would set a period not to exceed 90 days from the effective date that the state adopts regulations regarding HB 523.
The amendment was the idea of Councilman Chris Ritzinger, who said Sept. 6 that a longer timeframe made more sense since it is very likely that the state will take significantly longer than six months to develop regulations.
Munroe Falls Council went ahead that night and approved the moratorium because the city's charter prohibits amending and voting on legislation during the same meeting, and not immediately approving it could have put the city into the position where it may have to grant approvals for a medical marijuana business while it is still uncertain how the state plans to regulate it.
In the case of the amendment, Council members said there is no such hurry and the amendment can be taken to three readings.
"I don't know if there will be public comment, I don't know if anyone truly cares right at this point, said Councilman Mike Barnes on Sept. 20. "But if it can go three [readings], I'd let it go three."
Mayor James Armstrong said he agreed there is no rush on the amendment.
"At the beginning of the month, there was an issue because the law was going into effect that Thursday. Here we have time," he said.
He added that Ritzinger's proposal "makes sense" because it means Council will not have to worry about extending the moratorium later.
"We really don't have to revisit it because we have it built in that once they finally get together on the regulations, three months later, give or take, is when the moratorium will come off," said Armstrong.
Reporter Jeff Saunders contributed to this report.