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Elyria endorses medical marijuana firm to set up in city


ELYRIA — Ohio’s venture into the medical marijuana industry has many unknowns, but Elyria’s elected leaders are willing to learn on the go with Green Mile Enterprise leading the way.

On Monday night, City Council voted to endorse the application of the company fronted by Elyria native Darrin Farrow, who plans to apply for state licenses to grow, process and sell medicinal cannabis products to patients at a facility to be determined in the city.

The location, which Farrow said he is quickly trying to lock down, is just one of things to be determined. It is just getting started in Ohio, so Elyria officials cannot give residents the kind of facts they want.

“We are learning a lot along the way,” said Elyria Mayor Holly Brinda. “We know this will be sort of a leap of faith and the research is not completely conclusive, but there is substantial evidence … so that the state took that leap of faith and made it legal.”

Council’s endorsement Monday will not guarantee Farrow and his team are successful in their license application, as startups do not have to seek a city’s approval, but it will increase Green Mile’s score on the state’s grading matrix. Farrow said that is how the state will decide who gets to set up and where.

Simultaneously, the state’s boards of commerce and pharmacy are doing their work to construct appropriate guidelines and rules.

“There are just a lot of things we do not know how to respond to yet,” Brinda said.

Nonetheless, it is a gamble some are willing to take because of the possible financial reward. For Councilman Jack Cerra, D-7th Ward, who has taken to social media to gauge public response in the past two weeks, his main question Monday night was how much revenue Elyria could clear by welcoming a dispensary.

State taxing and fee guidelines are still being worked out, but conservative numbers have estimated it at about $3.75 million.

Police Chief Duane Whitely, who may seem like an unlikely supporter, said he doesn’t believe the city’s trade-off in exchange for more revenue will be higher crime. After brief conversations with police departments in Illinois and New York, states that legalized medical marijuana some years ago, Whitely said he doesn’t believe Elyria will be harmed. Employees of one police department had no idea the substance was legalized in the state, and another said despite being on one of the busiest corners in town few residents actually knew what the dispensary was or what it sold.

The element of medical marijuana in the community may excite some, but it also should be seen as learning and sharing opportunities for everyone, said Councilman Marcus Madison, D-5th Ward.

“It’s important moving forward that our prevention providers have a voice and a seat at the time to discuss ways we can educate and share information to the general public about medical marijuana and ongoing ways to encourage our younger kids in the community to make healthy decisions,” he said.

Eight of 11 Council members voted in favor of endorsing the application. Councilman Larry Tanner, D-1st Ward, voted against the endorsement, and Councilmen Vic Stewart, D-at large and Mark Craig, I-4th Ward, were absent from Monday’s meeting.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.

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