Kent marijuana business impatient with moratorium, but city council asks for patience

Photo by Elsa Olofsson

Ohio voters approved Issue 2 in November’s general election, but there’s still nowhere in Kent to legally purchase recreational marijuana.

That’s because the state has yet to craft regulations regarding legal sales. Kent city leaders don’t want to approve local laws that the state might object to, so in January, they declared a moratorium on recreational cannabis operators, testing laboratories and individuals.

Some people appear to be running out of patience. Flyers are floating around town urging residents to attend this evening’s April 17 city council meeting and to speak during the time designated for public comment.

“Kent City Council passed a moratorium/ban that prohibits adult use marijuana sales,” one flyer states. “This could cause Kent’s only dispensary to not be able to serve the community.”

Unless Kent lifts the moratorium, the city will be left behind as other area dispensaries start selling recreational marijuana, the flyer claims.

“This ban will take away jobs, hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax revenue, and goes against the 73% of the community that voted yes on Issue 2,” the flyer states.

Bliss Ohio, Kent’s only medical marijuana dispensary, supports but has not circulated any of the flyers.

Legally, it can’t.

State law prohibits Bliss, or any medical marijuana facility, from advertising or even displaying an “open” sign during operating hours, but does not prohibit the business from supporting the end of the moratorium, said Bliss supervisor Dalton Moyer.

Bliss co-owners Dwayne and Pamela Siekman say they are not after a wholesale lift of the moratorium. Since state regulations now under review mirror those for medical marijuana facilities, they want council to specifically exempt those facilities from the moratorium.

The Siekmans say they expect the state to finalize the new rules soon and want Bliss to be ready.

Slow down, three city council members say. As with any new business, city leaders must follow a process that involves public input, zoning, allowable locations, licensing and more. 

“Leapfrogging that process could have issues down the road, that maybe people don’t want,” Council Member Gwen Rosenberg said.

Council Member Chris Hook, who said part of his running platform centered on legalizing recreational marijuana, sympathizes with Bliss and local voters. Still, jumping the gun would serve no purpose, he agreed.

“We don’t want to do anything that would be in conflict with state law, and we still haven’t seen that,” Council Member Roger Sidoti said. He added a caution for when council does act. 

“These things take time,” he said. “It won’t happen overnight.”

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Wendy DiAlesandro is a former Record Publishing Co. reporter and contributing writer for The Portager.