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NEWARK – Medical marijuana might be legal in Ohio, but people might not be able to buy it in Newark when the program is finally up and running.

Newark City Council’s economic development committee on Monday will consider a law that would change the zoning code to prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries from being anywhere inside the city limits. The legislation is being brought to council by the city administration.

Mayor Jeff Hall said municipalities have not received any information from the state about the program that was approved by lawmakers in September of last year.

The rules for the program are still being written by people across several state agencies and are not expected to be implemented until September 2018.

“I think there’s a whole lot of unknowns right now,” Hall said. “We just need more information on it to understand what’s going on before we do anything.”

Law Director Doug Sassen said it would be an unclassified misdemeanor for a person to operate a dispensary in Newark and it carries the possibility of a $500 fine, plus court costs. Each day a person operates a dispensary would be considered a separate offense.

“Every day is potentially $500 dollars,” Sassen said.

Jeremy Blake, D-2nd Ward and chair of the economic development committee, said he isn’t in favor of a complete ban.

“I want us to have commerce. If there is a business that wants to come to Newark and wants to provide to our tax revenue and provide employment, we want to be welcoming to that,” he said. “But at the same time, we want to be able to control as to where they are located.”

Blake said safeguards need to be in place to limit the areas where dispensaries could be located, such as not close to schools or in downtown Newark.

Other municipalities in Licking County have also debated allowing medical marijuana facilities within their limits. Johnstown passed a resolution in August welcome medical marijuana businesses to the village.

Pataskala City Council tabled legislation last week that would prohibit medical marijuana cultivators, processors and retail dispensaries from locating or doing business in the city. The issue will come up again for a vote at the city’s May 15 meeting.

More:City Council tables final vote of marijuana legislation

Newark’s legislation only pertains to dispensaries.

Sassen said if the economic development committee passes the legislation, it goes to full council for a reading and then is referred to the planning commission for a public hearing. The law would then come back to the full council with the planning commission’s recommendation. Council would hold another public hearing and then vote on the law.

mdevito@gannett.com

740-328-8513

Twitter: @MariaDeVito13

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