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‘Norwalk needs to be forward-thinking’ on medical marijuana issue

Cary Ashby • Updated Mar 16, 2017 at 2:04 AM

Norwalk city council members and local residents discussed the possibility of the city possibly welcoming a medical-marijuana cultivation facility as expected during Tuesday’s work session.

Based on the recommendation by Councilwoman Samantha Wilhelm, council approved having the proposed legislation on next week’s agenda for a first reading. The recommendation passed 5-2 with Chris Mushett and Steve Schumm voting against it.

“I don’t have enough information,” said Mushett, echoing the sentiments of Schumm and Norwalk Mayor Rob Duncan.

Councilmen Chris Castle and Kelly Beck co-sponsored the legislation. Council will give the ordinance its second reading April 4, at which time it could be voted on. That timeline means Norwalk would meet a May 6 deadline when the the Ohio Department of Commerce will finalize the rules governing cultivation facilities.

Wilhelm told council she wanted the legislation put on next week’s agenda, but they should continue to maintain a “rigorous discussion.” 

About 30 residents attended Tuesday’s work session. 

“We haven’t lost anything by opening this door,” said Kathryn Ryan-Dale, a registered nurse who lives on Fairway Circle.

She shared with council the benefits of medical marijuana, saying “many health care professionals feel this is a good way to go.” Ryan-Dale said that’s especially the case since doctors are locked into choosing either narcotics or Tylenol for pain medication with no choices in between.

“I think Norwalk needs to be forward-thinking on this,” said Jim Bauer, of the Sycamore Hills subdivision.

Jefferson Street resident Matt Bebe told council that medical-marijuana cultivation facilities don’t produce any waste that is toxic to the environment.

“You’re going to get a good source of revenue from it,” he added.

Kathleen Kuhlman, of Norwood Avenue, told council that if the city doesn’t consider welcoming cultivation facilities “we will lose out” and another community will take advantage. 

Castle said the state will only issue licenses to 12 sites, but they won’t be up and running until September 2018. He also told council that the Ohio communities of Eastlake, Loudonville, Johnstown, Richmond Heights and Wilmington have passed legislation similar to what he and Beck have proposed and some immediately started receiving international business inquiries.

Also, Castle said he was inspired to propose the ordinance when a business man called him, looking for a “well located city” for cultivating medical marijuana.

“I know we were on the short list — the wish list — of cities before I started looking into it,” he added. “This is one of the largest industry sectors we’ve ever seen.”

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