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Batavia marijuana debate smolders

Two craft growers seek to set up business in city

BATAVIA – Two cannabis craft growing businesses are interested in establishing themselves in Batavia, reigniting the marijuana debate between aldermen and Mayor Jeff Schielke.

City Administrator Laura Newman told aldermen during a committee-level discussion last week that the two unnamed businesses want to operate under the craft grower classification, which under state statute would also permit them to manufacture cannabis-infused products and to provide transportation services.

Last month, the Batavia City Council decided to place a referendum question on the November ballot asking voters whether recreational marijuana dispensaries should be permitted in the community.

When aldermen at last week’s committee discussion directed Newman to draw up a text amendment to the city’s zoning ordinance that would allow craft growers in industrial areas, Schielke objected on the grounds that voters have not yet weighed in.

“I’m not sure we’re sending the right message,” said Schielke, who has vowed to veto any ordinance permitting a recreational marijuana dispensary in Batavia.

But aldermen argued in reply that the referendum is intended to deal only with the question of recreational marijuana dispensaries, not other types of cannabis businesses.

“I think it’s crystal clear,” 2nd Ward Alderman Alan Wolff said. “This is not part of selling to the public.”

There currently are no marijuana businesses in Batavia, but the city has an ordinance permitting medical dispensaries and cultivation centers.

The craft grower classification is distinct from a cultivation center, which is much larger and is not allowed to perform cannabis infusion nor provide marijuana transportation services, Newman said.

Meanwhile, Newman and City Attorney Kevin Drendel said it may not be legally possible to make next November’s planned referendum binding, which was the intent of the council.

If not, the city may instead have no choice but to place an advisory referendum in front of voters. Newman said this may not matter.

“I think the intention is to live by the results of the referendum,” Newman said.

A text amendment to the city code allowing craft growers in areas zoned under the general industrial and light industrial zoning classifications will be drafted and forwarded to the Batavia Plan Commission for review, Newman said.

After that, the amendment will return to the council’s committee of the whole with a recommendation from the planners, Newman said.

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