Niles City Council approves resolution to prohibit future marijuana industry

Published 9:13 pm Monday, November 12, 2018

This story has been corrected to reflect that current city council member Georgia Boggs was not up for re-election as previously stated. 

NILES — Niles City Council members are “putting the brakes” on future commercial marijuana industry. On Monday night, they voted 5-3 to enact a resolution that will completely prohibit the facilities within the city, except for business licenses that city leaders have already approved.

Councilmember Tim Skalla called on city leaders to have a second reading and vote on the resolution.

“If we opt out of this, we will do what we intended to do and keep control over it,” Skalla said. “If we don’t, we could end up with every gas station peddling [it].”

In the wake of the last week’s midterm election, which saw recreational marijuana legalized under Proposal 1, a number of city council members shared Skalla’s concerns that the city should wait to approve any future business until the state has clarified laws.

VandenHeede agreed with Skalla and said it was a way to give the city time to craft an ordinance that would be in compliance with state laws.

“If we don’t do anything, we don’t know where it is going to end up,” VandenHeede said. “Certainly not everyone is going to be happy with it, but otherwise we are in the dark. I know there’s a lot of people that are thinking we are shutting this down right off the bat, but that is not the intent.”

Councilmember Gretchen Bertschy said she wished to see future marijuana businesses first gain state approval, before asking for city council members to approve their licenses. However, she said the city could also lose out on opportunities if they wait to accept applications.

“I do want us to start accepting applications from businesses, but they have to understand, we don’t have any direction from the state,” Bertschy said. “We just don’t. We’re going to be saying no for a while because we don’t know what the state is going to tell us.”

Mayor Nick Shelton, who can only cast a vote in the event of a tie, advised council members not to vote in favor of the resolution and to discuss the topic when there is more clarity on state laws.

He said it is the job of city leaders to listen to what their constituents want. Based on midterm election results, Shelton said 2,123 city residents voted “yes” on the proposal, while 1,293 said “no.”

Shelton continued and said that voting to approve the resolution was sending a message to potential business.

“We are absolutely saying ‘no,’” he said. “You can put the brakes on it, but that does not change the perception of people that are considering Niles for their business. That is a ‘no.’ It’s a harsh ‘no.’ It’s a slap in the face to people who want to take a chance on the city of Niles for a legal product.”

He said direction from the state would eventually be provided and that council members should act on that.

The passage of the resolution was supported by council members Skalla, Georgia Boggs, Daniel VandenHeede, Bob Durm and Bill Weimer. Those who voted in opposition to the resolution included, Bertschy, DiCostanzo and McAfee.

Voters in the fourth ward voted last week to replace councilman Skalla with newcomer Jessica Nelson. Durm, who represents the second ward, tied with Travis Timm. Official results are pending. Nelson will be sworn in Nov. 26

When asked if the city had seen any interest in recreational marijuana business, city administrator Ric Huff said he could not specify whether business interest was recreational or medical, but described such interest as continuous. If the city council members choose, the resolution can be overturned. Huff said he could see the resolution come up for discussion again, once the state clarifies laws.


A full story will be updated tomorrow.