City council permits more medical dispensary licenses

NILES — Following a second reading Monday night, city council members voted 6-2 to approve a new Medical Marijuana Facilities Ordinance. The ordinance will double the initial number of dispensary licenses permitted from two to four.

Council member John DiCostanzo first motioned for city leaders to approve more medical marijuana provisioning centers during a meeting in December. The city had initially brought the ordinance up for a vote because it had been amended to reflect updated laws. DiCostanzo said he felt also changing the number of provisioning centers from two to four could encourage more business to come to Niles, rather than neighboring cities.

The ordinance was also revised to require medical marijuana businesses to get a state-approved license before they request approval from the city.

During the final reading and enactment Monday, council members Daniel VandenHeede and Georgia Boggs expressed concerns about the city not being cautious enough with the new industry. Both VandenHeede and Boggs voted in opposition of the ordinance.

“I feel like I always seem like I am the guy against all of this, but that is not necessarily my intent when we started these discussions,” VandenHeede said. “But once again, I find myself in that position because of the change made to this a month ago, when we agreed to increase the number of licenses from two to four.”

VandenHeede also expressed concern that the medical marijuana businesses approved will jump into the recreational business.

“We would now have four, plus whatever we agree to on recreational,” he said. “I’m going to vote ‘no’ on this. I liked the two, and I thought it was a good way to start and see. We have not even had any open yet.”

While City Administrator Ric Huff said medical marijuana businesses would have first options on also being permitted for recreational licenses, the city first has to opt into the recreational marijuana market. Any recreational industry would also have to be licensed by the city and the state before they can do business.

Boggs echoed VandenHeede’s calling to see how the industry evolves before more licenses are made available. 

“We are accepting four instead of two?” Boggs said. “I thought we were going to try and start slow and then move up.”

Mayor Nick Shelton said the council had discussed the number of medical marijuana licenses at length. A zoning ordinance will also assure that the businesses operate where the city and its committees have determined to be the best fit.

“I think city crews did a really good job of drafting and creating these ordinances, along with the ordinance committees,” Shelton said.

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