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Township bans medical pot businesses
April 13, 2017

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AUSTINTOWN - Medical marijuana cultivators, processors and distributors are not welcome in Austintown, where trustees Monday banned the businesses from the township.

While assuring residents that legal medical marijuana users will be able to partake without problems in the township, Trustee Jim Davis said Austintown should not be the testing ground for the new law.

By September 2018, those with 21 qualifying medical conditions, and a doctor's recommendation, will be allowed to buy marijuana from licensed dispensaries, according to the rules of the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program, signed into law in 2016. The Ohio Department of Commerce revealed Friday that it would release cultivator application forms to the public within the next two to three weeks.

The rollout is bound to come with kinks, problems that Austintown does not need to concern itself with, said Trustee Ken Carano.

Said police Chief Robert Gavalier, "the law is so vague, and we are worried about all that could come with this issue."

There is concern illegal activity will happen around the medical marijuana businesses, Davis said. And, the township's 42 police officers are taxed enough, Davis said.

"We need to know we can protect the community now. If those businesses come here, it may be used in a way it wasn't intended. And it will be a burden for police to regulate it," Davis said.

Carano said it would be better to see how the statewide rollout of the program goes before getting involved.

"We don't want to let it into Austintown in a slipshod way. Let's see how it goes in other places. This is not the right time, the ramifications are not known," Carano said.

Trustee Rick Stauffer said the law produced "more questions than answers" and the township needs to concentrate on its own challenges. "We don't need this," Stauffer said.

At a time when so many are struggling with addiction to opioid-based drugs like heroin and prescription pills in the Mahoning Valley, Stauffer said, bringing marijuana into the township "doesn't seem wise."

Though patients will not be permitted to smoke marijuana, Alzheimer's disease, HIV / AIDS, Crohn's disease, fibromyalgia, glaucoma, hepatitis C, inflammatory bowel disease and epilepsy are some of the conditions covered by the law.

The state law will allow 24 cultivators - 12 sites of up to 3,000 square feet and 12 sites of up to 25,000 square feet.

Larger growers must pay a $20,000 application fee and $180,000 if they are granted a license. Smaller grow operations must pay $2,000 to apply and an $18,000 license fee. Those are some of the steepest financial requirements for a medical marijuana license in the U.S.

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