OH: BG Council Seeks More Time To Sort Out Medical Marijuana In City

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City Council will take more time to consider medical marijuana after a measure failed to receive enough votes to impose an immediate moratorium on the state law, which takes effect Thursday.

Council voted 5-1 on suspending its rules and putting a resolution imposing the moratorium up for a vote.

Councilman Daniel Gordon was the lone “no” vote, and six “yes” votes were needed to suspend the rules. Councilman Bob McOmber was absent.

The resolution, which ended up only getting a first reading, had been amended prior to the vote to shorten the hold from 12 months to two months.

The moratorium was recommended by City Attorney Mike Marsh in light of Ohio’s House Bill 523, which allows for medical marijuana and goes into effect on Thursday.

A legislative package document prepared for council states that when HB 523 “was passed in June, the State noted that it could take up to an additional year to be fully implemented. Like the State, the City of Bowling Green also needs time to work on its regulations as they relate to medical marijuana. This legislation … provides the City an opportunity to monitor the State of Ohio regulations and consider municipal regulations by authorizing a temporary moratorium on medical marijuana cultivation, processing, and retail dispensary facilities in the City.”

The document notes that another measure implemented with HB 523 granted municipalities the ability to adopt such a resolution.

It was asked that the measure be given three readings Tuesday night and voted on because of the law shortly going into effect.

Marsh, addressing council, said “there still have been no regulations devised (by the state) for how these (dispensaries) are going to be administered. I decided Thursday to punt and I’m glad I did because we’re two days from when the law goes into effect” and the state still has issued no regulations.

The proposal raised concerns from some on council who said medical marijuana could assist those with certain ailments.

Councilwoman Sandy Rowland said she recently lost a relative whose condition could have been helped. She said she supported the resolution, and noted there are people who could be hurt by the state’s lack of regulations.

“I know it’s stunning and it doesn’t make sense,” said Marsh. “That’s why we waited so long” because they expected to see something issued by the state.

“I will feel really bad if we set some impediment to people getting medical marijuana, if we tell them to” go somewhere else to get it, Councilman Bruce Jeffers said.

Answering questions from Council President Michael Aspacher, Marsh said that if someone came in to register such a business, once HB 523 is in effect, under Ohio law the city would have to issue them a zoning permit.

Responding to another question, Marsh said, “We don’t allow just anybody to sell pharmaceuticals or cigarettes or beer, anything of that kind without being licensed, without being regulated. This is calling for a new, altering substance to be available at retail, which means all of us can walk in, buy it without regulation even though the law provided there would be regulation. Hasn’t been developed.” He said currently there is nothing to say that someone needs a medical marijuana card to obtain the substance, or who would be eligible to have the marijuana, though the law does specify that it be for medical use.

“How do you know what kind of quality you’re buying for it?” said Marsh. “Who tests it, who makes sure it’s safe? There isn’t anything.”

Gordon said he shared Jeffers’ concerns of burdening those who need medical marijuana for their conditions.
“For me the human cost of burdening people who need this to go to another community to get this is too much in my estimation,” he said.

During the lobby visitation portion of the meeting, resident William Herald suggested that the 12-month period for the moratorium be shortened in an effort to get the matter the necessary votes.

Gordon said the issue for him was that, no matter the timeframe, he wasn’t convinced the moratorium was a good idea. And, he said, even if he was, “I’m not comfortable passing it tonight,” noting that council only received the resolution for review on Friday.

“I’m not quite there yet on the necessity of a moratorium,” Gordon said.

Further lengthy debate on the issue continued when the matter was to be given its first reading.
“I don’t want to rush through and put something in place that doesn’t have any regulations,” said Councilman Scott Seeliger, noting he was sympathetic to those who use medical marijuana.

“We’ve got more answers for the bike paths than we have for marijuana,” he said. “There’s a responsibility to due diligence on this.”

Councilman John Zanfardino called the lack of state regulations “bizarre” but said a year’s moratorium seemed “very prohibitive,” and said he’d consider voting for a shorter period of time.

Jeffers moved to amend the resolution to shorten the resolution to two months, which Seeliger seconded.
Aspacher said that he was in favor of a moratorium, though two months seemed fairly quick.

“We need to recognize the fact that we apply community control to almost any commercial enterprise in this city,” he said.

All members voted to amend the resolution.

However, when the time came to consider whether to suspend the rules and give the matter its second and third reading, Gordon voted against that, meaning the matter was only given its first reading.

The resolution will continue to receive readings at subsequent meetings.

Bowling Green wasn’t alone in grappling with the issue of medical marijuana on Tuesday.

According to news reports, both Findlay and Fostoria considered similar issues; Fostoria passed a one-year hold on medical marijuana, while Findlay, like Bowling Green, considered and ultimately rejected a proposal to expedite a vote on a temporary ban.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: BG Council Seeks More Time To Sort Out Medical Marijuana In City
Author: Peter Kuebeck
Contact: 419-352-4611
Photo Credit: J.D. Pooley
Website: Sentinel-Tribune