Washington C.H. City Council members discussed their recent decision to pass an ordinance which prohibits the dispensing of marijuana for medical purposes within the city.
By June of 2016, the 131st Ohio General Assembly passed Substitute House Bill No. 523, which authorized the use of marijuana for medical purposes and established the medical marijuana control program within the state. The bill was signed by Ohio Governor John Kasich on June 9, 2016 and the process was started to bring medical marijuana to the state.
Within the bill was authorization by the state to allow municipal corporations to adopt, by ordinance, restrictions. These restrictions included limiting the number of retail medical marijuana dispensaries allowed or entirely prohibiting such dispensaries from a city or other municipality.
Signed this month, the council unanimously approved one such ordinance that has put a ban on dispensaries within city limits.
“Basically we think there is a tremendous drug problem in this area,” Washington City Council Chairman Dale Lynch said. “And even though this legislation dealt with medical marijuana, I felt, and I think most of the council did too, that this was just the beginning of a process that could eventually end up with other kinds of drugs being approved, including marijuana, for recreational use.”
Lynch said the council knew that it could not prohibit it everywhere in the state, but it could prohibit the dispensing of medical marijuana in the city. He said they had residents talk to them about the issue and he agreed with what he heard.
“I serve on the Faith in Recovery group and I am very much into the drug issue now, and, even though I know this was approved for medical reasons, I think that it could be found other places,” Lynch said.
Council member Leah Foster said she agrees with Lynch and she finds that people with the genetic make-up for drug addiction discover the gene by the time it is too late.
“There has been a big debate, is it a gateway drug, is it not a gateway drug?” Foster said. “So for those people with the genetic make-up for drug addiction, it could be a gateway drug. I am a believer that it is not a gateway drug for everyone, but my concern is that our town has such an abundant drug issue, as many small towns in Ohio have, why would we want to show more acceptance to what could be considered a gateway drug?”
Foster said this point is more important when it comes to the youth of the community, even more than adults. She said she believes that by opening a medical marijuana dispensary within the city, it shows youth acceptance of the drug.
“I think over the years certain facets of the media have created an illusion that marijuana is an acceptable substance in our lives,” Foster said. “As over the years we have accepted alcohol, we have accepted tobacco, and we know these are all harmful, but with the help of the media and advertisements, those things have become an acceptable part of human nature. I don’t want to see marijuana get to that same level because I think what happens, for the people that have that addictive gene, they go from alcohol to marijuana to pills and then to hard substances. So I don’t think medical marijuana is right for the city and right to portray to the youth as an acceptable thing to transition to.”
State Senator Bob Peterson (R-Sabina) said it was important to those writing the state bill that a city can opt out of allowing dispensaries. The intent was to allow local governments to decide aspects of allowing it in their city, just as any other zoning issue. Peterson said it is perfectly appropriate to allow local governments to make those decisions.
“The bill that the legislature passed very much put medical marijuana into process,” Peterson said. “The goal was to treat medical marijuana like any other medicine. It needs to be produced in a laboratory and has to have consistent dosages. We are trying to make it like any other medication you would take. It has taken some time, but they are currently working on licenses for cultivators and they are accepting applications for dispensaries and processors. What we have heard in testimony, and what I think, is that we don’t have a need for it to be everywhere. I think it makes sense to have it in some places and not in others.”
For more information about the Medical Marijuana Control Program, visit www.medicalmarijuana.ohio.gov.
Reach Martin Graham at (740) 313-0351 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy