Proactive plan on marijuana merits praise

Cortland officials are taking an important proactive step in dealing with medical marijuana businesses that may want to locate in the city.

An amendment to Cortland’s zoning regulations that will be considered by City Council will require potential dispensaries and cultivators of newly legalized medical marijuana to participate in a public hearing before the city’s zoning commission can recommend approval or denial of its operations in the city.

If approved, it would place medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivators on a list requiring a public hearing. Other businesses on that list include adult bookstores or adult motion picture theaters, church, half-way houses, libraries and more.

It’s important to note that Cortland’s upcoming vote on this zoning issue will not serve to either allow or ban medical marijuana as a whole. Rather it will guarantee that no decision is made without first giving members of the public a chance to voice their opinions.

Council also has promised to give the proposed zoning change three public readings as well as its public hearing.

When granting permission for a company whose business is viewed as so controversial, we feel strongly that neighbors — whether residential or commercial — should have an opportunity to communicate their opinions on the topic and be heard by the businesses hoping to open up shop here and by the public officials who ultimately will make the decision.

Inviting public comment before the decision is made can only contribute to more transparency and serve to head off any suspicion of backroom deals. This idea should be held up as a model to many other local communities that have, instead, opted to move quickly and sometimes without public input when making decisions on similar controversial topics.