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Mayor Duncan 'absolutely' stands by decision to veto

Cary Ashby • Updated Apr 14, 2017 at 8:14 PM

Norwalk Mayor Rob Duncan said he “absolutely” is certain that vetoing legislation to welcome a medical-marijuana cultivation facility in the city is the right thing to do.

“I don’t think there’s been a divisive issue” as this facing Norwalk, he said Friday. “At the end of the day, I don’t think there’s enough information to make this type of decision.”

(NOTE: You can read a copy of the mayor’s veto paperwork in PDF form.)

During its April 4 meeting, council voted 4-3 to amend portions of chapter 513 of the Norwalk codified ordinances to provide for the state-regulated cultivation of medical marijuana within the city. Councilmen Chris Castle and Kelly Beck co-sponsored the legislation.

“Honestly, I thought the vote would go in a different direction,” Duncan said the next day. “First of all, I didn’t think that it would pass. Secondly, I thought that if it did pass, they (council members) were aware that (a veto) was my position.”

Castle, Beck, Samantha Wilhelm and Deb Lucal cast supporting votes while Chris Mushett, Dave Wallace and Steve Schumm voted against it.

The mayor filed his veto and written objections with the council clerk Thursday afternoon.

“(Friday) copies were delivered to all members of council. They were hand-delivered to the council members who were in town. There were two council members who were not in town and it was emailed to them,” Norwalk Law Director Stuart O’Hara said.

During Tuesday’s meeting, council has the option to present a motion to reconsider voting on the medical-marijuana cultivation legislation.

“That would take four votes to pass,” O’Hara said, while the reconsideration requires five votes.

Five reconsideration votes would override the mayor’s veto, making the legislation law.

Castle didn’t sound confident Friday that there are five votes.

“I am not in the habit of making a motion if we don’t have the votes to back it,” he said.

The mayor listed three objections: “the lack of adequate time to consider” the complex issues involved; the unknown “final rules” from the state for cultivation facilities “and how they might impact our city”; and finally, that the cultivation, possession of selling of marijuana remains a federal offense.

Castle doesn’t consider Duncan’s objections to have much legal backbone.

“I think it’s more of an emotional response than a legal response,” said Castle, noting that he expected legal objections to be accompanied by cited sections of federal law and the Ohio Revised Code — which the mayor’s doesn’t include.

“These are objections that should be based on objective facts. By the very definition of an objective, they should be based on objective facts,” added Castle, who believes the mayor’s objections more closely resemble “subjective opinions.”

Council had about 3 1/2 weeks to consider the legislation. Earlier, Castle said he didn’t present it to council before that because the interested company didn’t approach him until March. The legislation had its first reading March 21.

“I find it interesting the veto would take half that time,” Castle said Friday.

Duncan was asked Friday if he is comfortable knowing an area city might welcome a medical-marijuana cultivation facility and Norwalk might miss out on that opportunity. The mayor also was asked if vetoing Castle and Beck’s legislation is what’s best for the city.

“Absolutely,” he said to both questions.

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