Huber Heights City Council moves zoning change to allow medical marijuana to third reading


Public hearing lasts over three hours

By Dave Lindeman - For the Courier



Huber Heights City Council chambers were packed with residents both for and against a zoning change that will allow medical marijuana production and distribution in the city.


Photo by Dave Lindeman

HUBER HEIGHTS — A public hearing on a zoning change to allow medical marijuana cultivation facilities in Huber Heights turned into a 3 ½ hour debate on the subject at Monday night’s city council meeting.

When all the talking was over, council decided to move an ordinance that would approve the change to a third reading. It will come up before council again at its July 24 meeting.

Steven Anevski of FW Green Investments, a company that hopes to open a cultivation facility on Kitridge Avenue in Huber Heights, spelled out the benefits of the program during the public hearing. FW Green is one of 109 companies that have applied for Level 1 cultivator approval with the state. Twelve of those applicants will be selected by the state as Ohio’s first medical marijuana growers. Level 1 growers will operate facilities with a minimum of 25,000 square feet up to 75,000 square feet. FW Green operates a marijuana cultivation facility in Massachusetts.

Anevski explained how special odor scrubbers will prevent unpleasant odors from being released into the surrounding area; how the facility will feature organic production without chemicals; and how the building will feature extensive security.

“The mantra of our company has always been to go above and beyond what the state lays out in the law in terms of security and also environmental impact, as well as community impact,” Anevski said.

He said his company plans a $10 million investment in the facility, has a policy of hiring veterans and local workers, will share 2 percent of profits with the city and hold quarterly programs that will raise funds for local charities.

Mark Bruns of the Huber Heights Chamber of Commerce also spoke in favor of the rezoning.

“The majority of Ohioans who were polled favor medical marijuana,” Bruns said. “For Huber Heights, which did not declare a moratorium, here’s an opportunity to allow that industry to maybe come to our city as opposed to all these other in the region who have said no.” He emphasized the positive economic impact a production facility would have on the city.

Frank Wylie, a behavioral specialist with years of experience in treating addictions, supports a medical marijuana facility in Huber Heights. Wylie is opposed to recreational drug use but said medicinal marijuana could help cut down the number of opioid addiction cases he sees.

Pharmacist Michelle Price told council that studies have shown that more than 90 percent of patients who used opioids and medical marijuana for pain management preferred medical marijuana. She also said that studies show that places that have approved the use of medical marijuana have shown a 25 percent reduction in opioid overdoses.

Disabled veteran Robert Kowalski, president of Veterans Ending the Stigma, added his voice to allowing medical marijuana production to come to Huber Heights.

Kowalski told his personal story of his experience with medical marijuana.

“The VA treatment for me was, there’s a pill for every symptom,” Kowalski said. “At my worst, at 24 years old, I was on 11 different medications, taking 22 to 27 pills a day.”

Kowalski moved to Arizona in 2012 and became a cannabis patient. He says he now has been medication free since 2013. He has returned to Ohio and is working to make medical marijuana available to veterans.

There was plenty of opposition expressed at the public meeting.

Ed and Peggy Powell, who live not far from the proposed facility on Kitridge Avenue, said the city would suffer from the negative connotation of opening its doors to a marijuana facility.

“We’re sitting at the hub of this opioid thing,” Ed Powell said. “We don’t need the image.”

He said allowing a marijuana facility to come to Huber “just doesn’t make sense.”

Melissa Patachi agreed. She listed a number of reasons for her opposition, including marijuana being illegal federally; not being FDA approved; the problems of a cash-only business; how the business will be regulated; and the legalization of recreational marijuana down the road.

“Once in place, it’s only a matter of time, and then what kind of impact will that have on our city?” she asked.

Andrea Hoff of Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services of Montgomery County expressed her personal and her organization’s opposition to medical marijuana.

She asked council members to consider the long-term consequences of legalization. She cited statistics that showed that decreased perception of risk and harm leads to more abuse. She cited Colorado as an example of how the “snowball effect” results in more drug use, particularly by young people.

She told council the social costs of marijuana use will offset any economic benefits of legalizing marijuana and said more study and FDA approval is needed.

Toni Webb summed up the feelings of many of the residents who spoke against the rezoning.

“I don’t want it in our city,” she said. “I want it to go down the road. If you decide to vote yes and let it in our city, there’s no going back.

“I don’t want to be the guinea pig. Let someone else be the guinea pig.”

Council Member Glenn Otto concluded the discussion by explaining council’s role.

“Our decision that we have to make is a zoning decision,” he said. “It’s do we or do we not want to say that we are business-friendly to a new business in the state of Ohio that our state government has said is legal and will be operational very soon. That’s the question.”

For now, the question remains unanswered. Council decided to move the issue to a third reading and will discuss it at its next work session, at which time City Manager Rob Schommer said a requested economic impact study should be ready.

Council will consider the rezoning again at its July 24 meeting.

Huber Heights City Council chambers were packed with residents both for and against a zoning change that will allow medical marijuana production and distribution in the city.
http://www.hhcourier.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/35/2017/07/web1_marijuana.jpgHuber Heights City Council chambers were packed with residents both for and against a zoning change that will allow medical marijuana production and distribution in the city. Photo by Dave Lindeman
Public hearing lasts over three hours

By Dave Lindeman

For the Courier

Reach Dave Lindeman at (937) 684-8983 or on Twitter @HH_Courier.

Reach Dave Lindeman at (937) 684-8983 or on Twitter @HH_Courier.