LOGAN — Some may say it’s like watching an episode of a made for TV reality show — The Mayor No Wanna Marijuana — but the fact remains, this is real life and it’s happening now in real time.
As the saga continues, those in attendance of the Logan City Council meetings have witnessed finger-pointing, tempers flaring, accusations flying and the good old blame game being played out right before their own eyes.
With all of this going on, Logan City Council meetings have been the place to be every month on the second and fourth Tuesday. As Council members take their seats, an audience of inquisitive people pack the room as though they are waiting for the next scene of a Broadway play or their favorite reality show to begin.
However, this episode of The Mayor No Wanna Marijuana is about to come to an end and those in attendance may hear — “cut; that’s a wrap — the end” come Tuesday night as one of the most pivotal issues in the history of Logan City Council will be decided. Will City Council members override the Logan City Mayor’s recent veto of Ordinance 24 in order for the medical marijuana dispensary to open its doors in Downtown Logan, or will they change their minds and agree with the mayor’s actions.
While there have been some pretty heated conversations, finger pointing, and perhaps some misconceptions, the fact remains — the vote by City Council members next Tuesday will be the deciding factor in how this episode unfolds.
It can go one of two ways — if Council members override the Mayor’s veto, the Mayor said he would refuse to sign the ordinance. If Council members vote with the Mayor, CannAscend representatives have already indicated they would possibly sue the City. This is not a win-win situation for the parties involved.
No matter the outcome, someone is going home disappointed.
As previously reported, City Council members heard the third reading and voted on Ordinance 24 “amending section 157 of the codified ordinances of the City of Logan, Ohio to permit the selling of medical marijuana by repealing section 157.299 of the codified ordinances of the City of Logan.”
The vote was four to two in favor of repealing the Ordinance; however, Logan City Mayor Greg Fraunfelter vetoed council’s vote. During last week’s meeting, the Mayor presented his reasons behind the veto.
“Discussion is always better than argument because in a discussion what is right is more important than who can yell the loudest, point fingers the most, and make the most accusations,” Fraunfelter told Council members.
He presented a copy of the “sensible marijuana ordinance” and reiterated that the ordinance did not make marijuana legal, but in fact, lessened charges in the hopes of alleviating jail time.
While representatives of CannAscend argue that medical marijuana alleviates pain from numerous disabilities, the Mayor said according to the Cleveland Clinic, there are only a few proven treatments.
This was not the only reason behind the veto. Fraunfelter said the most important factor is the rule of law and due process. Although medical marijuana dispensaries are legal throughout the State of Ohio, marijuana remains a Schedule 1 drug and is illegal.
He noted that not only the City of Logan has laws concerning new businesses, but also all other cities and villages do as well.
“In my three years there has not been a problem with our permitting process nor the procedure of requesting to appeal to the Zoning Board of Appeals requesting a change for permitted uses,” he told Council members.
“Such ordinances and procedures are known as due process. This entire procedure is to be enforced by the Mayor and Service Director’s office which includes Amy Adams,” he added.
“In spite of nasty emails, phone calls, notes and my own personal feelings, I was elected to honor the Ohio Constitution, the U.S. Constitution, the rule of law, and to make sure due process remains intact. And, like it or not, that is my full intention,” Fraunfelter continued.
The mayor’s final plea to Council was that of home rule.
“The State of Ohio seems to have assumed they — the Ohio General Assembly — can create a kind of permit that overrides any due process procedure within cities and villages in Ohio,” Fraunfelter stated. “This cannot be permitted to stand. Should my veto be overridden, then the permitting process and appeal procedure can no longer be required of any new business.”
Although the Mayor can plead his case over and over to Council members, it all comes down to the vote on Tuesday night. As many times as the Mayor has pled his case to Council, representatives from CannAscend have had their equal share of time before Council.
Ian James was among those from CannAscend that rebutted the Mayor’s plea to Council and reminded council members there are hundreds upon hundreds of people in need of medical marijuana in order to survive the horrific pain they suffer from many diseases such as cancer.
He apologized to Council members after his conversation became somewhat heated while addressing the Mayor’s concerns and reasons for vetoing the ordinance. James remains adamant that CannAscend has followed all rules and regulations as far as the permits for Strawberry Fields are concerned.
“Clearly the Mayor is willing to do anything and everything in an effort to try to stop CannAscend from operating in the City,” James told The Logan Daily News. “We believe that is incredibly unfortunate. CannAscend is committed to continuing to work with the City to answer questions and address concerns as it prepares to provide medicine Hocking Valley patients need and deserve, in accordance with State law.
“We’ve heard a lot of fantastic incorrect information over the last several months from the Mayor and City employees under his direction. In these situations, because we must provide fact based information in order for CannAscend to be able to provide medicine to sick and suffering patients in the Hocking Valley, we have gone out of our way to be honest, transparent, and address questions and comments directly so that Council and the Community can make sound decisions.
“We have also had to answer the distortions and false claims opponents have made at virtually every Council meeting and/or hearing,” he continued. At Tuesday’s Council meeting, we were told that CannAscend was not issued a zoning permit, even though we received a signed and full executed application zoning permit as well as the zoning permit.”
In an email to The Logan Daily News, James attached what appears to be a zoning permit issued on Dec. 17, 2018 and signed by Bruce Walker, Logan City Service Director. The permit is issued to CannAscend, 245 W. Main St., for renovation of existing facility.
“When government chooses winners and losers and treats companies differently than other companies because of a personal animus, those are the kind of actions that lead people and companies to question whether or not to create businesses in Logan, or make Logan their home,” James remarked.
“They are also the sort of things that can lead to costly litigation, at a time when Logan can ill-afford to lose another legal battle,” he added.
James told The Logan Daily that when Walker signed the Notice of Proper Zoning for a medical marijuana dispensary, he and the City knew that there was no Ordinance banning the business from operating in the city limits. He also told the newspaper that when Walker issued a Zoning Permit and Plumbing Permit over a year later, he and the City knew a medical marijuana dispensary was ready to build out its facility and create jobs for Logan.
“Now that over $1.25 million has been spent to develop and improve the facility, and as Council appears ready to override the Mayor’s veto, CannAscend is being told the Zoning Permit it received from the City, is not the Zoning Permit it needs to open,” James said. “This is not the way to attract businesses, create jobs for the area, and help patients in need.
James said CannAscend is determined to continue its forward progress, to provide medicine in accordance with State Law, create new jobs and generate revenue for the community, without raising taxes.
“We believe in a partnership with the community, and have worked diligently to be a good and value added partner who wants to improve the health and welfare of people in Logan and the Hocking Valley. We appreciate the Mayor’s opposition, but likewise believe the City Council has taken the proper steps to allow the community to be heard and to find a positive outcome for all involved,” he concluded.
There must be a vote by two-thirds of Council in order to override the Mayor’s veto. Be sure to stay tuned as this episode of Mayor No Wanna Marijuana comes to an end, as the outcome will be decided during Tuesday’s Logan City Council meeting.