AKRON, Ohio-- Akron City Council has unanimously approved legislation that lays the groundwork and opens the door for any company or individual wanting to grow and sell medical marijuana within the city limits consistent with state law.
State lawmakers last year created laws that allow for the legal cultivation of medical marijuana in Ohio.
Akron city leaders say their economic development team has already heard from people who are interested so the city worked to create local regulations which they could study and determine if they are still interested.
"It first of all institutes zoning regulations that regulate where those facilities can go and it also institutes a licensing scheme that allows the city to license those facilities," said Ellen Lander Nischt, press secretary for Akron Mayor Daniel Horrigan.
"These facilities cannot be located in any residential zone in the city. That's unique to Akron. It wasn't in the state law but we decided to put that in here locally. Also they can't be within 500 feet of a school, a church, a public park or a public playground," explained Nischt.
Before taking a vote, council opened the floor for public comments.
Among those who spoke was Jolie Moyer, the vice president for the Akron-Kent chapter of NORML. "First and foremost the patients need access to their medicine but there are so many advantages of allowing the businesses in our community economic advantages, tax revenue, jobs and some of those things are impacting Akron very hard at this time," Moyer told Fox 8 News.
Moyer said she is among those who would be eligible to use medical marijuana after two separate cancer diagnoses.
Ed Carrico said he is also eligible to use medical marijuana and believes the city is moving in the right direction. "I got hurt back in '88 and I have had 17 surgeries and I use medical marijuana for my pain; I don't take any kind of pain medicine at all other than that and it helps me a lot. There are days I don't think I can get by without it," said Carrico.
The city said anyone growing medical marijuana in Akron will have to do so in an indoor facility.
The expectation is that it will help provide jobs and add tax dollars.
"When the mayor decided to bring this legislation forward he had really two goals in mind: the first one was to make sure that we protected public safety and the character of our neighborhoods, and that no residential areas were impacted negatively by these facilities; and also that we were able to give patients in Akron access to this medical product if they have a serious illness like cancer, epilepsy and they needed access to this medical marijuana," said Nischt.
Not every Summit County community is hoping to compete for the business.
The city of Norton last month passed an ordinance banning the cultivation, processing and sale of medical marijuana within its borders.
"The licensing process is starting this summer so they basically have to get their approval from the city and from the state in June and July to cultivate but you wont actually see that process start probably until 2018," said Nischt.
"Akron City Council clearly did their homework and collaborated with numerous different people to make this decision; it was not made lightly," said Moyer.
"Our economic development team has had some people contact them just to ask was the city open to this sort of process and that's why we came forward with this legislation to give them clear direction on how they could operate here, if they are interested, but we will wait and see what kind of applications we get in the next couple of weeks," explained Nischt.