Liberty Twp.’s growth could make it an attractive location for medical marijuana businesses, one trustee says.
Marijuana dispensaries will likely be located in more populated areas, Trustee Christine Matacic said, and Butler County is the seventh largest county in the state and Liberty Twp. has been the fastest-growing community in the county.
“Are we going to be a target?” she said. “My feeling is I’d rather be prepared and understand all of this and do our homework, so we know what we’re up against.”
The state is still working on how many dispensaries and testing laboratories will be allowed, there will be 24 cultivator licenses — 12 large and a dozen smaller operations — to begin with, but Bryan Behrmann, the township’s director of planning and zoning said that number could grow.
A one-year ban on medical marijuana businesses was put in place last September by Liberty Twp. trustees, just before the law allowing medical marijuana passed. The law doesn’t permit smoking pot but permits vaporizers, patches, edibles and oils. Rules are currently being formulated — cultivator rules will be adopted May 6 — and the program will be implemented in September 2018.
Matacic has been researching the new pot industry and found the city of Akron is developing its own regulations. All grow operations have to be indoors and the city will reserve the right to shut down any facilities emitting a strong pot smell. She said they have mapped out where the businesses can go — the state law says the operations must not be within 500 feet schools, churches and places like that — and they plan to have their own licensing process.
Behrmann said there is a $20,000 application fee and $180,000 licence fee for the large operations. Small growers will pay a $2,000 application fee and $18,000 license fee. He believes the license fees are imposed annually.
Behrmann told the trustees if they decide to craft their own regulations he isn’t certain how those restrictions might translate if the state ever allows recreational weed, because they are both marijuana.
“Right now it’s medical marijuana, it could change at some point down the road to recreational,” he said. “I don’t know if you can draw that line between the two and allow one and not the other.”
Trustee Tom Farrell said that possibility is what concerns him the most and he would like, if they do decide to allow medical marijuana, to make sure those regulations don’t open the door for recreational.
“If we let one come in here and the state changes its regulations, and we have a business here following those regulations, and if the regulations change, I’m not sure how much control we will have over them,” Farrell said. “That’s the only concern, it appears to be all or nothing… that’s why everyone is a little skeptical.”
Trustee Steve Schramm said he is still in “wait and see” mode but he wants a legal opinion on how they can protect the township if they go down this path.
“We may need some legal interpretation,” he said. “We can do all kinds of pretty easy words like exclusively, solely, we can come up with something so it is medical marijuana only.”
The trustees agreed to keep the moratorium in place and gather information about what other jurisdictions are doing. In Butler County, Middletown has banned the pot industry, Hamilton outlawed dispensaries, Fairfield is in the process of banning and Fairfield and Ross townships have moratoriums in place.