Niles city council votes to support development of medical marijuana resolution

Published 8:52 pm Monday, March 27, 2017

Niles City Council members voted seven to one in favor of adopting a resolution in support of development of medical marijuana facilities ordinance.

Following two public forums and much debate on the topic, it took city council members mere minutes to cast their votes Monday evening.

Despite having taken a step forward, Mayor Nick Shelton said the city’s work on further developing a sound plan for medical marijuana facilities in Niles has just begun.

Many factors to the resolution will continue to be hammered out with the ordinance committee and planning commission, Shelton said officials did not yet have a time frame for these decisions.

“We really need to get out there as a council and talk to constituents and talk to the people in our community about what they think and where they want these types of facilities and how we are going to go about creating this ordinance,” Shelton said.

Prior to the vote, several council members said that their vote was not necessarily in favor of their own opinion, but rather represented the voices of the community members who had shared their thoughts throughout the process.

“This issue has split the community in a way I have never seen before,” Bill Weimer said. “I was raised one way to have certain beliefs about this and the people told me something else so I represent the people, so I have to vote tonight to do what the people have instructed for me to do, even though I do not necessarily believe in it.”

While there were residents eager to voice their opposition to the statue throughout the forums, an overwhelming number of people showed their support.

Community members’ support for bringing potential medical marijuana facilities to Niles was evident in a two surveys conducted to gauge opinions. The first survey conducted during the Feb. 23 forum showed 37 in support and 11 opposed, out of 111 surveys returned.

Sitting in the audience that evening, Marie Weimer said she had hoped city council members would vote in favor of a medical marijuana resolution. Weimer uses a walker to get around after an accident left her with a badly broken leg years ago. She said she had to have her ankle replaced and could see medical marijuana having a positive effect on her injuries. However, she said with the cost for a medical card and the marijuana products, she was not sure if she would use the medicine at this time.

“I would hate it if other people who are terminally ill could not have that opportunity.  I believe it would be a good thing for our community,” Weimer said.

Council member Georgia Boggs said her vote too reflected the voice of the people. Boggs was the only council member to vote ‘no’ on the resolution.

“I have had numerous calls in my ward that they [residents] are not willing to deal with marijuana in Niles,” Boggs said.

Council member Daniel VandenHeede echoed Shelton’s sentiments that there was a lot more work to be done.

“This does not mean it is an automatic thing,” VandenHeede said. “It would be like the first step in saying, ‘yes we are in support of the idea and we are moving forward with it.’”