Pro-Marijuana Shop Cleared To Open

Pro-Marijuana Shop Cleared To Open
Posted by FoM on January 14, 2000 at 07:55:55 PT
By Betty Lin-Fisher, Beacon Journal Staff Writer 
Source: Akron Beacon Journal
Ravenna issues permit, but mayor warns that city will scrutinize business.The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws will open its boutique in downtown Ravenna now that the city has reluctantly given its OK.The store, which would provide information related to marijuana-law reform and sell items, could open as early as Monday.
But Mayor Paul Jones has made it clear the group shouldn't expect the Welcome Wagon to drop by.NORML President John Hartman has said the mayor had been stalling the opening of the store with bureaucratic roadblocks.On Wednesday, Jones sent Hartman a scathing letter, telling him the organization was being ``warned'' to obey the laws while in Ravenna.Jones wrote that the city has ``no choice'' but to issue an occupancy permit, yet he didn't mince words.``Let me put you on notice with respect to obeying the law while in Ravenna . . . ,'' he wrote. ``I can assure you this city will be vigilant to prosecute any offenders to the highest extent of the law. In plain words, you have been warned.``When you run your `operation' in Ravenna, you better be `cleaner than the driven snow,' '' Jones wrote.Hartman had not received the permit or letter yesterday.After seeing a copy of the letter, he called it ``horrible.''``I don't think he has a clean slate either,'' he said of Jones. ``Our only intent is to sell ideas, not drugs.''Hartman said he was happy the store would receive its permit, ``but shocked that he (Jones) continues to feel that we're a black eye in the community.''Jones, who was ill and unavailable for comment yesterday, had blocked the occupancy permit until NORML followed the same process as other retail businesses, including getting approval from the Planning Commission and having employees undergo criminal background checks.However, the city issued the occupancy permit Wednesday on the recommendation of Law Director Frank Cimino. Yesterday, Cimino said he told Jones that the description of NORML's store activities ``did comply with the commercial zoning requirements for a retail business.''The store, which has been ready to open for two months, could open Monday if the permit is received, said Hartman. The 400-square-foot store, at 113 N. Chestnut St., is next door to the Ravenna Chamber of Commerce. It will be the second for Northcoast NORML, the parent organization, joining one in Lakewood. A Dayton-area store closed last year.Bill Saks, NORML's lawyer, said he considers Jones' warning to be threat.``The mayor should be aware that any harassment or unjustified prosecutions will be vigorously resisted,'' Saks said yesterday after reading a copy of the letter.The organization was prepared to sue the city to get the occupancy permit and had given the city a deadline of next Thursday, Saks said.Saks said the city could be held liable for two months of lost revenue, but NORML would not pursue the matter in court.Hartman said the store probably lost $8,000 to $12,000.``We're not interested in beating up the city of Ravenna. We feel hurt that the mayor has treated us this way, but that's not our goal. We like to earn our money honestly,'' Hartman said.In addition to providing information, the shop would work to increase the organization's membership base and sell products including books, incense, hemp products, CDs and videos. In his letter, Jones said that after talking to community members, he thinks the Ravenna store is going to be an ``economic flop.''Said Hartman: ``I'm more than willing to put our faith in the capitalist free market for the future of NORML in Portage County.''He said the area has a good customer base.Jones wrote that he was disturbed by reports that NORML's store in Lakewood was accused of selling drug paraphernalia to a minor and that the woman who would manage the Ravenna store has a drug trafficking conviction.Hartman and Saks both said they are unaware of trouble at the Lakewood store.``That's a lie, and it's taken as a malicious act, and I'll talk to a lawyer about it,'' said Hartman.Saks said the Ravenna manager grew marijuana to use to treat her epilepsy, has completed her sentence and has a right to work in the store.He said the NORML Shop will be a good neighbor in Ravenna.At NORML's Lakewood store -- Cannabis Connections -- patrons must be at least 16 years old and must be 18 to buy cigarette paper. Hartman said the same rules will apply in Ravenna, and he would have no problem raising the patron age to 18.Ravenna, OhioPublished: January 14, 2000The Beacon Journal Publishing Co.Related Articles & Web Site:Northcoast NORML Hinders Opening Of North Coast NORML Store - 1/02/2000 Fights Plans for Store Run by MJ Legalizers - 12/27/99 News NORML Articles:
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Comment #1 posted by kaptinemo on January 15, 2000 at 07:25:25 PT
Ve Vill Be Vatchingk You, Komrade!
If the police were to devote as much attention in observing liquor stores, pawn shops, and convenience stores as the Mayor of Ravenna promises to spend surveilling the NORML boutique, they might catch more criminals. But as usual, their priorities are skewed by their prejudices.
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