NORTH ROYALTON – The controversial topic of medical marijuana has gone up in smoke, with the majority of council voting 5-2 to ban the cultivation and distribution in the city.
But, the controversy burns on with political flip-flopping claims surrounding individual votes and stances.
Before the formal vote, the only solid, vocalized stances on the topic had been Ward 3 Councilman Dan Langshaw and Ward 6 Councilman Dan Kasaris both against the substance because, though it has been legalized in the state, it is still classified federally as a Schedule 1 drug. Langshaw pushed for the outright ban of the cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana in the city last year but the rest of his colleagues opted instead to institute a third six-month moratorium to allow the state more time to finalize its processes before making a decision.
When the latest moratorium was set to lapse this month, Kasaris requested it be discussed again to decide whether council wanted to ban it, do nothing or extend the moratorium a fourth time.
School Resources Police Officer Jon Karl and Amy Kuntz, coalition director for the Partnership for a Healthy North Royalton, both addressed council asking to ban the growth and sale here.
On March 20, council formally voted for the ban 5-2 with Ward 2 Councilman Gary Petrusky and Ward 5 Councilwoman Cheryl Hannan the votes against the ban.
Hannan said council’s vote simply makes the plight harder for the people who truly need its medical relief.
“Promising medical studies suggest medical marijuana inhibits tumor growth and even kills cancer cells. Medical marijuana is also being used to fight the opioid crisis by prescribing this plant-based, low-addiction drug to wean addicts from the harmful highly addictive strong narcotic drugs of fentanyl and oxycodone,” she said. “I am disappointed that council’s decision will only impose greater burdens by making our residents go elsewhere to obtain relief.”
Ward 1 Councilman John Nickell, who was quoted a year ago stating he was open to medical marijuana because of reports of it having life-changing results medically and not wanting the city to miss out on an opportunity economically, said it was a hard decision for him, but he opted for the ban after polling residents and the school community.
“Since I am elected to represent the people of my ward and the majority response was against, I needed to respect that and change my vote to be against it,” he said. “In my opinion, when Larry and Paul learned I was going to vote against it, they too decided to change their minds on the permanent ordinance banning medical marijuana in our city at this time.”
Both Council President Larry Antoskiewicz and Ward 4 Councilman Paul Marnecheck said they never vocalized their stances. Marnecheck said an hour before the meeting, he was still unsure how to vote.
“Amy Kuntz and I had coffee about an hour before the meeting, and I was still evaluating both sides of this issue. I had my stack of articles, materials and research which I reviewed one last time in my car before the meeting,” Marnecheck said. “I had hoped the state would have used this extra time the moratorium provided to clear up uncertainty and produce clear guidelines. Sadly, there is still too much confusion at the state and federal level. Even today, I just read an article about how discombobulated the rules and regulations are.”
“My position has always been that council needed to just stay focused on what the issue was,” Antoskiewicz said. “Never have I said that I was for having the operation, cultivation or distribution within city limits. It was clear to me during the moratorium that no matter what side of the issue people were on, they were all uneasy having the growth and sale within the city.”
Antoskiewicz said Nickell’s flip-flopping claim is politically motivated with the 2019 election looming, “Councilman Nickell and I never had a conversation over this issue, so to say I changed my vote is purely politically motivated.”
Nickell admits this is part of politics, being the voice of the residents he was voted to represent.
“I am an elected official voted by the people to vote the majority opinion,” he said. “Having heard from the majority of the people that didn’t want the sales, I did change my mind because it’s about leadership.”