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Cuyahoga Falls neighbors petitioning city to halt marijuana dispensaries

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Posted at 6:28 PM, Oct 27, 2023

CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio — A group of neighbors in Cuyahoga Falls is calling on the city to halt more marijuana dispensaries from coming to town. They think their health, safety and property value concerns could be compounded if Issue 2 legalizes recreational marijuana in Ohio.

They’re circulating a door-to-door and online petition as construction nears an end on the city’s second medical cannabis dispensary on State Road near Chestnut Boulevard.

“These should not be in residential areas at all. They shouldn’t be anywhere where homes and families and kids, young through young adult, are living,” said Laura, who lives nearby and declined to share her last name out of concern for her family’s privacy.

She started the petition several weeks ago when she and other neighbors first heard the former payday lending building was being converted.

“We were all surprised by its proximity to houses right here in the center of the neighborhood,” said fellow Cuyahoga Falls resident Ed Sturkey.

Neighbor and former city councilman Vic Pallotta added, “This facility is not a good fit for this side of town.”

The group of neighbors has been collecting signatures and speaking to city leaders about their concerns. They point to the building’s small lot and prohibit neighborhood street parking as a potential challenge if the facility draws a large customer base.

“I don’t know where all these people are going to go. So it’s a real traffic concern,” said Pallotta, who tells News 5 he regularly sees a packed parking lot at a larger facility in Akron.

They also cite several studies from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and policy research organization The RAND Corporation about how the presence of dispensaries and the use of marijuana can affect children and young people.

“That’s my biggest push as a mom of 2 kids,” said Laura. “I think about their future, I think about, ‘Ok, we go recreational.’ And they’re young now, but what happens when they’re in middle school, or they’re in high school, and this is just everywhere?”

Some medical marijuana patients told News 5 they see things differently.

“We see bars everywhere,” said Don Parks. “It’s much less impactful than alcohol ever was.”

The Stow resident who drives to Cuyahoga Falls’ only current dispensary for his prescription said he also supports the legalization of recreational marijuana and doesn’t expect dispensaries to have negative effects on communities.

Abram Benjamin, who was also picking up his prescription in Cuyahoga Falls Friday, said he sees the potential revenue dispensaries could generate if they’re regulated responsibly.

“As long as it’s not like right next to a school or within a mile of a school, I feel that that’s better,” he said.

No one from the city was available for an interview Friday, but a representative directed News 5 to a page on its website with answers to frequently asked questions about marijuana dispensaries.

The document said there have been no issues reported in connection to the city’s only current medical marijuana dispensary, which opened on Buchholzer Blvd in 2020.

The company, Curaleaf, issued the following statement to News 5:

Curaleaf takes very seriously its impact on, and connection to the local communities where it operates and we comply with all safety regulations in place. Curaleaf has a 13 year history of supporting medical patients around the country, and will continue to prioritize medical patients if the adult use transition commences after the coming election.  If the bill to legalize adult use cannabis in Ohio does pass on November 7th, we would welcome adult use consumers into our stores once state regulations are presented. Issues of safety are taken into consideration by lawmakers when legislating where dispensaries can operate and how many locations are appropriate for the population size and anticipated demand of any area. Additionally, the 10% sales tax that would be imposed on adult use cannabis purchases would generate tax revenue that funnels back into the community.

The city’s FAQs addressed its position on prohibiting medical marijuana facilities. It said the Ohio Board of Pharmacy approves licenses and locations.

“Our local zoning laws and regulations at that location allow retail sales, and we currently have no legal grounds to stop it. This medical facility is also legally permitted under state law,” the web page said.

It also said if voters approve Issue 2, recreational cannabis rules would be determined by state lawmakers and regulations.

“If approved, the Ohio legislature will craft rules and regulations that govern the ability of individual cities to regulate or restrict recreational sales,” it said.

Language in Issue 2 says local governments would be allowed to pass their own ordinances to limit or prohibit dispensaries, though they could not limit existing medical marijuana facilities.

The group behind the petition is hoping the city will consider drafting legislation and preparing for the potential outcomes of the election.

“We see a storm coming, and there’s not enough voices out there that are saying, ‘Hey, protect yourself. Protect your families. Fight for what matters.’”

News 5 reached out to FarmaceuticalRX, the company opening the dispensary on State Rd, for comment, but we have not heard back.

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