Economic Development

Commission Backs Waiver for Medical Marijuana Dispensary

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The city planning commission on Tuesday voted to recommend that City Council approve a waiver that would allow a medical marijuana dispensary to operate at the Mahoning Plaza.

Planning Commission members voted 5-0 in favor of the measure, which enables Holistic Health Partners LLC to locate in a space that is within 500 feet of another regulated use.

The company wants to renovate the former Mahoning National Bank space at the plaza on Mahoning Avenue into a medical marijuana dispensary that is modeled after a physician’s office, said Sue Crowley, one of the partners in the venture.

We’re going to treat it like a doctor’s office, a physician’s office model,” she said, much like what has been implemented in Connecticut. Crowley said that former bank sites were among their first choices because of the already built-in security features such as a large vault that can be modified to fit the dispensary’s needs. “We were really drawn to that concept.”

Holistic Health Partners and two other companies – Green Mile Solutions LLC and a yet unnamed business – are vying for one of two licenses available in the northeastern district No. 6, which encompasses Mahoning, Trumbull and Ashtabula counties. The firms made presentations to city council members on Monday evening.

We’d met with all members of City Council previously,” Crowley said. “We didn’t get any negative feedback.”

One attendee at the planning commission meeting, Ashley Croley, said she didn’t want to see a dispensary in her West Side neighborhood. “I’m a recovering addict and this sits so heavy,” she told the commission. “I don’t want drugs in my neighborhood.”

Croley said she is concerned that those who obtain medical marijuana will turn around and then sell the substance on the streets illegally. “We have a huge drug problem.”

Youngstown Police Detective Pat Kelly spoke up in favor of the dispensary, noting that the owners plan to step up security at their own expense. “There will be security inside and outside,” he told the commission.

A.J. Carabello, Crowley’s partner at Holistic Health, said that the industry is heavily regulated by the state of Ohio, and the dispensary is not permitted to sell other pharmaceuticals. A licensed pharmacist would be staffed at the dispensary at all times of operation.

The state will accept applications for dispensaries between Nov. 3 and Nov. 17, he said, while licenses should be awarded by March 2018. “We have 180 days after a license is awarded to be up and running,” he said. The state has set a deadline to have the dispensaries operational by September 2018.

At least five companies competing for medical marijuana growing licenses are considering Youngstown sites. The state plans to award those licenses – 24 in all – sometime in November.

In other matters, the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals deadlocked 2-2 on whether to approve reasonable accommodations for a small group home at 940 Monterey Ave. on the West Side. Transcripts are to be sent to members who were absent at the hearing, including Mayor John McNally, so the matter can be addressed at next month’s meeting.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.