Massillon City Council Continues Talks on Recreational Marijuana Shops

Massillon City Council is currently engaged in ongoing discussions regarding the establishment of recreational marijuana shops within the city. The council is considering two key proposals: one to authorize recreational marijuana businesses and another to set fees and designate areas where these businesses can operate. The discussions have sparked significant interest and debate among council members and residents, reflecting the broader state-wide shift towards cannabis legalization following Ohio’s approval of recreational marijuana last year.

The first proposal under consideration by the Massillon City Council aims to officially authorize recreational marijuana businesses within the city. This proposal follows the state’s lead, as Ohio voters approved the legalization of recreational marijuana last year with a 57% majority. Council members are divided on the issue, with some advocating for the economic benefits and others expressing concerns about potential social impacts.

Councilwoman Jill Creamer, D-Ward 4, has been a vocal proponent of the proposal, arguing that allowing marijuana shops could bring significant revenue to the city. She has suggested limiting the number of operators to two and including the historic district within the permissible areas for marijuana businesses. Creamer believes that a controlled and regulated approach can mitigate potential negative effects while maximizing economic gains.

However, not all council members share this view. Councilman Mark Lombardi, R-Ward 1, has expressed reservations about the proposal, citing concerns from residents about the impact on community safety and well-being. Lombardi’s stance reflects a cautious approach, emphasizing the need for thorough consideration and public input before making a final decision.

Setting Fees and Designating Areas

The second proposal focuses on setting fees and designating specific areas where recreational marijuana businesses can operate. The proposed fees include a $50,000 startup fee and a $50,000 operations license, with a $100,000 renewal fee every two years. These fees are intended to ensure that only serious and well-funded operators enter the market, thereby maintaining high standards and compliance.

Development Director Ted Herncane has been actively involved in discussions with potential operators. He highlighted the importance of balancing economic opportunities with community concerns. Herncane noted that most of the historic district would be excluded from marijuana business operations due to proximity to parks, schools, and churches, which are protected by state law requiring a 500-foot buffer zone.

The council’s approach to setting fees and designating areas aims to create a structured and regulated environment for marijuana businesses. By establishing clear guidelines and financial requirements, the city hopes to attract reputable operators while addressing potential risks associated with the cannabis industry.

Public Input and Future Steps

Public input has been a crucial component of the ongoing discussions at Massillon City Council. A public hearing has been scheduled for August 12 to gather feedback from residents and stakeholders. This hearing will provide an opportunity for community members to voice their opinions and concerns, ensuring that the council’s decisions reflect the broader interests of the city.

Councilman Sarita Cunningham, R-at large, emphasized the importance of community engagement in the decision-making process. She believes that listening to residents’ perspectives will help the council make informed and balanced decisions. Cunningham’s approach underscores the council’s commitment to transparency and accountability in addressing the complex issue of marijuana legalization.

The next steps for the council include further discussions and potential amendments to the proposals based on public input. The goal is to finalize a version of the ordinances that can be presented for a second reading and eventual approval. The outcome of these discussions will have significant implications for the future of recreational marijuana businesses in Massillon, shaping the city’s approach to cannabis regulation and economic development.

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