(Posted May 24, 2017)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
Will Madison County allow the cultivation of medical marijuana within its borders? If so, how would such operations be zoned? How many would be permitted? And the biggest question right now: Who, by law, gets to make these decisions?
David Hughes, director of the county’s Building and Zoning Department, raised these questions after receiving an inquiry from a county resident interested in growing medical marijuana for wholesale at an indoor site south of U.S. Routes 40 and 42.
To apply for a permit from the state, the resident must get approval from the local zoning authority. The application is due to the state by June 15. Hughes plans to take the applicant to the Board of Zoning Appeals meeting June 5.
In a meeting with the Madison County commissioners on May 22, Hughes said the county zoning code does not address medical marijuana cultivation. Addition-ally, local officials aren’t sure how to interpret state law when it comes to who has authority to make decisions about it.
Referencing information from the Ohio Association of County Commissioners, Rob Slane, county administrator, said he thinks the law puts all authority in the hands of the townships and municipalities, that county governments have no authority in the matter.
Hughes said Madison County is somewhat unique in that the townships do not have their own zoning departments; all are under county zoning. To that end, he thinks the county could have authority.
County Prosecutor Steve Pronai plans to look further into the law and get back to the commissioners before their next meeting on May 30. He said he has talked to other prosecutors about the zoning; most lean toward commercial designation for medical marijuana cultivation.
County Commissioner Mark Forrest said that because state law allows it, he would have no problem with the legal and safe growth of medical marijuana in the county. He added that he wouldn’t want the county to become “the grow capital of the world,” that he would want limits placed how many operations were permitted.
Commissioner David Hunter isn’t keen on the idea of permitting the grow operations in the county. He expressed concerns about safety.
“To be honest, I’m afraid of this thing,” he said.
Pronai said the local applicant has little chance of obtaining a state permit. The number of permits available are limited and likely will go to much larger operations, he said.
Hughes said he has received calls from other entities interested in the county’s stance on medical marijuana grow operations. None have submitted paperwork.