Medical Marijuana facilities in Hudson put off again…probably for good this time.

City Council passed 5-1 (Weinstein-no, Wooldredge-amed-mjbsent) an ordinance continuing a six month moratorium on medical marijuana facilities in Hudson until September, 2017.  This likely means Hudson will not be the home to a medical marijuana grow facility.

The question of permitting a grow facility was a topic at my recent Ward 3 Forum.  We had a good public discussion, with several interesting points of view. One was from a local author, Susan Terkel, who authored several books on the topic, including  “Should Drugs be Legalized?” The majority opinion that night was similar to this email I received the next day:

“Good Morning….Thank you for your service….Thank you for taking the time to listen to your constituents….Thank you for discussing a controversial topic in a fair and balanced way…… I strongly oppose the operation Of any type of government sanctioned marijuana centers …”

Some of the discussion at the Ward 3 Forum was the same type of comment I hear today, discussing the merits of medical marijuana. That is not the issue. The Ohio Legislature already decided last year that medical marijuana was to be legal in Ohio. The only decision left to municipalities was whether or not to allow its manufacturing and retail locations (dispensaries) in their communities. Not having a grow facility or dispensary in Hudson will not limit the accessibility for anyone in Hudson who needs it and is allowed to use it.

Immediately after the state law took effect, Hudson followed the lead of many cities and unanimously passed a six-month moratorium on any decision as to allow or restrict, pending the release of more details from the state regulatory authorities. That original moratorium expires March 6, 2017.  We voted last night to “punt” on the decision for another six months. As far as growing facilities are concerned, due to the timing of permits and lead time to build, a 6-month moratorium is tantamount to saying we don’t want that facility.

This  article does a good job explaining how the grow industry works and why that marijuana ship has now sailed for Hudson.  It’s about a proposed site in Eastlake, a city that is open to a grow facility, and has received a full proposal and details about the operations.

Hudson was under consideration for a grow site this winter, but then the proposal was withdrawn.  While those details are not public, the Eastlake article goes into detail on what we may have missed.

A 25,000 sq. ft capacity grow facility is currently the largest allowable site, one of 14 to be permitted statewide.  The Eastlake group is proposing that size,  with 30-50 employees projected and a payroll of $1.5 million. The payroll tax, if it were located in Hudson, would be $30,000 a year, plus property taxes to the schools, and income from fees.  This means the average job pays $30k, hardly high end tech. The building itself would be about 60,00o sq. ft. The Eastlake developer says they need a site selected in time for a June application deadline, with plans and construction to begin in September, 2017 –right about the time our moratorium ends. By the time Hudson City Council acts again on whether or how to allow grow facilities, the growers and sites will have been determined. No great loss as far as I’m concerned.

Some say that Council’s opposition to facilities in town is putting morals or personal attitudes about marijuana above public health or economic development. The economic development upside is not that great.  Council is able to choose whether we want this type of business because Ohio grants cities that privilege with this new legal industry.  I‘m not enthused about the downsides of association with the “growing” marijuana industry. How do we promote a program  on “Nobody Starts with Heroin” one night and cash the check from the marijuana industry the next day?  If Ohio gave City Councils the right to prohibit a tobacco grow facility, a distillery, or gun range, I would feel the same about all those legal enterprises—adults can feel free to indulge, and other cities can profit, but they are businesses I would rather not have in Hudson.

Apparently I’m not alone on the issue. You can’t gauge public opinion by letters to the editor, Facebook “likes” or tweets. The best indicators are voters at the polls. There was a state ballot issue in 2015 that would have legalized marijuana both medically and recreationally.  The number of proposed grow facilities was considerably less than permitted under the current law, but one of them would have been in Hudson. Hudson stood to gain significantly more in taxes under that 2015 proposal than it would now. Hudson voters rejected the issue by a 3 to 1 margin.

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For more on City Council actions at the February 7th meeting, including the results of the NEORSD stormwater vote, see “Notes from the most Recent Meeting

A reminder – I’m available to address your neighbor group or homeowners association. I’d love to come out and chat with you for a few minutes. I have two slated so far this winter, send me an email or call me with your invite!