OBERLIN — The city is positioning itself to be a player in the medical marijuana industry.
City Council discussed moving forward with a resolution voicing support for medical marijuana cultivation, processing and distribution within city limits.
Although a resolution hasn’t yet been drafted, all Council members said Monday they support the burgeoning industry. A motion was made to have the Planning Commission fully review where growing and distribution could legally occur within the city.
Law Director Jon Clark said by September 2018 Ohio’s medical marijuana industry will be in full operation with marijuana available to patients with 23 specific conditions. The state may issue up to 24 marijuana cultivation licenses, he said, and up to 60 distribution licenses.
Council members want potential growers and investors to know Oberlin is a place they should consider.
Councilman Kelley Singleton said medical marijuana will provide cities with opportunities to create jobs and generate tax revenue. With other places in Lorain County passing moratoriums on medical marijuana, Singleton said Oberlin should do the opposite.
“I think it’s important for us to state that we are open to development and to encourage developers to come here and give Oberlin a shot,” Singleton said. “I believe this could be very economically stimulating.”
Councilman Bryan Burgess said Elyria, which already passed a resolution in support of medical marijuana, beat Oberlin to the starting line. Burgess said he would support earmarking future medical marijuana revenue for specific purposes.
“I think this is a very good idea to send this onto the Planning Commission,” Burgess said. “Not only so that they can think through these issues and others we haven’t thought of yet, but also to give the staff enough time to look at the legal ramifications and the financial implications.”
Councilwoman Sharon Fairchild-Soucy said she has known individuals dealing with end-of-life issues or chemotherapy treatments. Making medical marijuana available to patients is a positive move, she said.
Fairchild-Soucy said she also doesn’t want to see Oberlin lose out on reaping the rewards of increased tax revenue because the city dragged its feet and an investor decided simply to go elsewhere.
Some members on Council, like Fairchild-Soucy and Councilwoman Linda Slocum, said although they support the industry on economic grounds, they still have some concerns about the possibility of increased juvenile use and abuse.
Resident John Pardee, president emeritus of the Ohio Rights Group, a patient advocacy group working to legalize medical marijuana, said he also used have concerns about marijuana as medicine.
But Pardee’s son, Jason, started using marijuana after a car crash left him in constant pain and he didn’t want to use opioids for pain treatment.
Jason Pardee ultimately moved to California to grow and use marijuana to treat his pain, and his father has been working to legalize medical marijuana in Ohio since.
Pardee said the fears people have about marijuana are based on myth and misunderstanding. Marijuana doesn’t lead to harder drugs, he said, and it can actually be used to treat people experiencing withdrawal from opioids.
“Four out of five heroin addicts actually started out on (presciption) opioid medications,” Pardee said. “That is the No. 1 gateway drug.”