Cities with Moratoriums on Medical Marijuana Businesses May Miss Out on Economic Opportunity

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EDDINGS:  This is "Morning Edition" on 90.3 WCPN.  I'm Amy Eddings.  Entrepreneurs who want to grow pot to supply Ohio's nascent medical marijuana industry have until May 6th to submit their applications to the state.  Aspiring growers must say on their applications where they plan to build their operation.  Some communities -- including Cleveland, Lakewood and Lyndhurst -- have excluded themselves from consideraton, with temporary bans in place until later this year.  Crains Cleveland reporter Jeremy Nobile reported earlier this week that they could miss out on what investors believe is a lucrative economic development opportunity.  Jeremy, welcome to WCPN.

NOBILE: Thank you very much for having me.

EDDINGS: Ohio's medical marijuana program isn't expected to be up and running until September, 2018.  That's seventeen months away.  Is that a real risk, that communities under moratoriums could miss out on the jobs and tax income from these businesses, or is it, as Lakewood Mayor Michael Summers told you, a "salesman's approach?

NOBILE: Are they gonna miss out on all the jobs? Not necessarily.  But there is a sense that, on the cultivation side, they could miss out on those.  There's only 24 licenses that could be permitted. and if you're not in on the early side of things, you might not get one of those facilities.  Those are the faiclities that have scientists, andparticularyl, high paying jobs versus dispensaries, whihc ar emore retail operations.

EDDINGS: And dispensaries will be licensed farther down the line, and determinations about where they will be located will happen later. So a city like Cleveland could get in on the dispensary angle, right?  But that might not generate as much economic activity?

NOBILE:  That's right.  And, there's also a stigma that dispensaries are bad for neighborhoods.  'Cuz maybe they'll draw crime.  Some people think that dispensaries mean there will be young people hanging out, smoking weed and causing trouble.

EDDINGS: We have states like Colorado that have paved the way.  Has that proven to be true?

NOBILE: In Denver, they actually did a report -- The Denver Post did -- actually did a report where they wee looking at the crime after they had approved recreational marijuana in 2012.  Less than one percent of all the crimes in Colorado were related to marijuana.

EDDINGS: Some communities had moratoriums, but they've ended.  You mentioned Eastlake, Parma and South Euclid.  What have their civic leaders been telling you about considering hosting a cultivator or a dispensary?     

NOBILE: So, in Parma, for instance, the mayor there [Mayor Tim De Geeter] had specifically said that they are looking for more opportunities to increase their income tax.  It's hard for them to get a lot of the businesses that they want.  And there's a section of Parma in the industrial side where that would be really appropriate for these places to go.  So, one of the main things that cities are working on right now is their zoning rules.  Part of the motivation there is to create "marijuana districts" of sorts, is a term that's been thrown around...

EDDINGS:  That just blows my mind, doesn't it?

NOBILE: A "marijuana district," right.  They're not saying, "This is our marijuana district," but in effect, they're creatng that by saying, here's a section of our city that has a lot of open warehouse space.  Akron is a good example of a place that has a moratorium in effect, right now, still.  However, they've proposed changes in their zoning law to accommodate those businesses in their industrial and manufacturing districts.   

EDDINGS: Now they're not allowed by state law to be located anywhere within, like, 500 feet of a school, right?

NOBILE: That's right, 500 feet from a school, a library or a church.  And, if you wanna etail operation, I mean, there's a lot of churches in northeastern Ohio  How many churches are nearby?  How many schools are nearby?  Just having that operation and finding your site is going to be difficult.  

EDDINGS: Jeremy Nobile 's story, "Clock is Ticking on Marijuana Investment Chances," appeared in Crains Cleveland last weekend.  Thanks so much for dropping by.

NOBILE: Thanks so much for having me.



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