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Columbus Council Passes Medical Marijuana Zoning Laws

Richard Vogel
Associated Press

Columbus City Council has approved zoning measure for medical marijuana businesses at their meeting Monday night.

The proposal limits the growing and processing of pot to manufacturing districts and testing to non-retail commercial areas. Dispensaries will have to stick to retail zones designated C-4.

"C-4 is the most intense commercial district we have,” explains Columbus zoning official Tony Celebreze. “You can think about it as High Street, Broad Street, major thoroughfares like that."

Retail outlets will face additional requirements, too, as part of a special permitting process. Celebreze says they’ll have to notify neighbors, including community organizations like the area commission, before opening. They also won’t be able to set up shop next door other dispensaries.

“We didn’t want any areas to become heavily saturated with dispensaries as we’ve seen in other cities that have medical marijuana, so we put at least a 500-foot buffer between any dispensary," Celebreze says.

State law already requires dispensaries be at least 500 feet from schools, churches, libraries, playgrounds or parks.

Ohio's medical marijuana program was supposed to be operational by September 2018, but it was slowed down by lawsuits and challenges with the licensing process. Officials say the first products should be harvested by the end of the year, although there's no timeline for when it will be available on dispensary shelves.

This story has been updated.

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.