Marijuana may take a hit from Youngstown City Council

Moratorium would prevent shops from opening for up to two years; dollar stores, car lots still targeted

YOUNGSTOWN — City council will consider legislation at its June 5 meeting to enact moratoriums on recreational marijuana businesses, dollar stores, car lots and auto repair shops.

The moratorium on recreational marijuana will be one year — though some council members want it to be at least two years — while the length of the other moratoriums will be about two years, according to proposed ordinances provided Tuesday by the city law department.

Jason Small, senior assistant law director, said the time frames and language are suggestions and likely will be modified by city council.

The language in a statewide issue approved by voters in November to legalize adult recreational marijuana includes a provision allowing communities to prohibit the location of businesses that sell it. If that were to happen, the owner or operator of a dispensary can attempt to place the matter on a ballot for voters in that community to decide through a petition initiative.

“We don’t want to allow it to be open season” in Youngstown on recreational marijuana, said Councilwoman Samantha Turner, D-3rd Ward. “We have no data from the state of Ohio just yet. As a city, we should see what it looks like over the next year and then move forward.”

That could include how many recreational marijuana facilities could be allowed and their locations if council decides to permit them in Youngstown, she said.

Once the rules for recreational marijuana are in place, Leaf Relief at 4323 Market St., Youngstown’s only medical marijuana facility, would be able to apply to sell recreational marijuana.

That business would not be subject to a moratorium, Turner said.

The moratoriums were to be further discussed at a Tuesday council zoning committee meeting. But the meeting was adjourned after a nearly 30-minute wait for a lack of quorum with Turner as the only member in attendance.

Councilman Julius Oliver, D-1st Ward, showed up about five minutes after the meeting was adjourned while Councilman Jimmy Hughes, D-2nd Ward, didn’t attend.

Councilwomen Anita Davis, D-6th Ward, and Amber White, I-7th Ward, were at the meeting. But they are not committee members so they don’t count toward a quorum.

The legislation for council’s June 5 meeting calls for a moratorium of about a year for recreational marijuana and about two years for the three other businesses.

But Oliver said he wanted a moratorium of at least two years on recreational marijuana and Turner said she was agreeable.

“I don’t want to inundate the city with marijuana businesses,” Oliver said. “It increases crime.”

Oliver added, “I don’t need more kids eating more (marijuana) gummies. I don’t want the street to sell fentanyl and pills rather than marijuana.”

About 50 communities in Ohio have enacted moratoriums or bans on recreational marijuana, and several others considering it.

Austintown trustees voted in April to impose a moratorium until the end of the year while Boardman trustees in February voted not to allow recreational marijuana businesses in the township. Howland trustees voted in December to not permit the businesses in the township.

Council’s zoning committee has met a number of times during the past two months to discuss moratoriums on dollar stores — the proposed legislation refers to them as “small box discount stores” — as well as car lots and auto repair shops.

The proposed legislation would ban the opening of new businesses under those three categories for two years. The discussion had been on a one-year ban, but council members said two years is better.

The legislation for small box stores describes them as between 3,000 and 15,000 square feet, selling “a limited assortment of physical goods, products or merchandise” most of “which are sold for $10 or less and that (do) not dedicate at least 15% of shelf space to fresh food and produce.”

The city has 23 dollar stores run by Dollar General, Dollar Tree or Family Dollar.

Hughes has been the only council member to speak in support of dollar stores saying they are the only food sources the city has in certain areas.

“Although small box discount stores may fulfill a need in places that lack basic retail services, growing evidence demonstrates that small box discount stores not only are a byproduct of economic distress, but also a cause of it,” the proposed legislation states.

“We’re in a good place on those three,” Turner said of legislation for moratoriums on dollar stores, car lots and auto repair shops.

The car lots legislation includes new vehicles. The city hasn’t had a new automobile dealership in more than 25 years.

Oliver said the moratoriums are “going to improve the city. It will give us a better voice in our decision-making. Everyone should only want what’s best for the city and its residents.”

Have an interesting story? Contact David Skolnick by email at dskolnick@vindy.com. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, @dskolnick.


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