Medina City Council Considers Response To Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Law

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Medina, Ohio – City Council is considering whether to impose a six-month moratorium on the cultivation, processing or retail sale of medical marijuana.

Ohio’s new medical marijuana law – which went into effect Thursday but won’t be fully operational until next September – covers new ground in terms of municipal ordinances and land-use zoning for cities and townships.

Most cities don’t have laws regulating marijuana processing or retail sale, since the drug in all its forms has been illegal until now.

A number of Northeast Ohio cities – including Strongsville, Broadview Heights and Lakewood – have wasted no time in imposing a moratorium to prevent a foothold by the fledgling industry in their communities.

Medina will wait at least two weeks before making such a decision. City Council’s Finance Committee tabled the moratorium at its meeting tonight in order to look further into the issue.

City Law Director Gregory A. Huber said the moratorium is important, because the city currently has no regulations regarding the legal cultivation or sale of marijuana.

“Right now, we have no regulation in place. If people were to apply (for a state license) now, they’d be grandfathered in,” Huber said.

He said the state law gives local entities a broad range of control over medical marijuana, up to and including banning it in individual communities.

Since federal law prohibits marijuana use and sale in all instances, many city law directors are moving toward not allowing cultivation, processing or sale of state-permitted forms of marijuana, he said.

“Many municipalities are just saying we’re not going to have it here,” Huber said.

The state law allows cities to impose a moratorium of up to six months on the medical marijuana industry, and Huber said he thinks Medina should take advantage of that.

He said it would give the city time to study the issue and review its zoning code to see where possible cultivation, processing and sale of medical marijuana would fit within the city – if at all.

He said the moratorium would protect the city and its residents while City Council comes up with appropriate regulations.

“It would buy time to try to sort this out. We’re a wide-open city, and we have nothing in place,” Huber said.

Several council members, including Council President John Coyne and Ward 2 Councilman Dennie Simpson, said they were reluctant to impose a moratorium without more information because of the benefit medical marijuana could provide for residents with one of the 20 medical conditions eligible for prescriptions.

“I’m not saying that medical marijuana couldn’t be abused,” Simpson said. But he noted that it could be very helpful for patients with conditions such as chronic pain or seizure disorders.

“I don’t think there will be people standing in line to get medical marijuana to get high,” he said.

The state law prohibits the smoking of marijuana and limits medical marijuana to infused edibles, tinctures, oils, patches and plant material.

Growers will have to be licensed and approved by the state, and citizens will not be permitted to grow marijuana on their own property.

Simpson said he doesn’t think cultivation of medical marijuana will be widespread in the city.

“The state really did a job on making it so narrow that it’s almost impossible to use,” Coyne said.

“I do understand Mr. Huber’s concern,” he said. But he said he would like to take some time to study the issue further and talk with residents instead of making a “knee-jerk reaction.”

All of the council members at the meeting agreed that the city needs some kind of land-use regulations regarding the new industry, making it clear where cultivation and sales would be appropriate.

“What concerns me is that there are no rules,” said Councilman-at-large Paul Rose.

“Right now, we have rules in place for commercial (businesses). We need to do this for marijuana, too, so we can say ‘you can go here, but you can’t go there.’ Let’s direct them. Let’s give them some guidelines,” Rose said.

Ward 4 Councilman Jim Shields said he would support a moratorium, but is willing to wait two weeks to vote on the matter.

“It’s just six months. This just keeps us from seeing people jumping in,” he said.

Jonathan Mendel, the city’s community development director, noted that medical marijuana cultivation and sale are not protected class uses.

“We can prohibit it if we want to. We can regulate where it can be,” Mendel said.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Medina City Council Considers Response To Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Law
Author: Ann Norman
Contact: Cleveland.com
Photo Credit: Ann Norman
Website: Cleveland.com