A ban on the growth or sale of medical marijuana within the village of Wellington may soon be passed.
It is meant as a way of compensating for “incomplete language” in Ohio House Bill 523, signed into law by Governor John Kasich in June to legalize medical marijuana, said mayor Hans Schneider.
“Right now there’s a lot of parts of the state law where specifics need to be worked out,” he said Monday during a public meeting. “At the end of the day, we want to be able to have control of things that come into the community and have a discussion when all of the facts are available down the road.”
Schneider and council members want more clarification from the state on how zoning and cultivation will work. No real specifics have been laid out in HB 523 regarding who can grow marijuana, how much they can grow, where they can operate, or how far they must distance themselves from schools or other areas frequented by children.
The state bill does allow local governments to choose how they would like to handle marijuana.
“There is language in the ordinance that allows us to quickly reopen the issue when we think it is best,” said Schneider. “It’s an issue that’s open for discussion. There are words in the state law that give us that opportunity.”
Medical marijuana advocates also attended Monday’s meeting and said these kinds of ordinances only make it harder for patients seeking the drug to find it and often forces them to turn to an illegal seller who is close to home.
“I’ve been on the ground for the fight for legalization ever since my son was in a near fatal car accident,” said John Pardee, a Lorain County resident who is also president emeritus of the Ohio Rights Group, a Columbus based nonprofit organization. “This is something that I never thought I’d be involved with. I also understand your concerns. I’m an environmental consultant so my trade is health and safety. I would never advocate for anything I didn’t think increased the well-being of the good people of Wellington.”
Pardee said his son’s car crash in 2008 led to extensive bladder damage due to side effects of prescription opioids.
“The problem we face here in Ohio is opioid overdoses,” he said. “We’re losing so many of our citizens to it every day. What they’re finding is states that have legalized marijuana see a 25 percent drop in opioid overdoses. Marijuana is already here illegally. What this does is build a safe and regulated framework for it. States that have legalized have not seen an increase in use from juveniles or increase of fatalities on the roadways.”
He said Ohio never really wanted to pass HB 523, and that much of its language does not go far enough in creating an environment that will truly help patients.
“This is something they passed kicking and screaming just because we were pushing them so hard,” he said. “What we’ve gotten from the state is something that is still way too conservative. These ordinances send the wrong message. They tell the community this is something to fear.”
Avon, Avon Lake, and Sheffield have passed similar bans and another in North Ridgeville is under consideration.
Also touched upon by Pardee was potential tax revenue that Wellington could be missing out on.
“These wouldn’t be businesses you’d see on every corner like a Starbucks,” he said. “They’re going to be very careful in how things are run and not allow for targeting of juveniles through cartoon advertisements or things like that. It’s going to be done right.”
Pardee said his group wants to remain in close touch with Wellington and be its liaison in what continues to happen at the state level.
“I don’t think anyone is discouraging the use of medical marijuana,” said Schneider. “What the state passed is vague. People can cross into Michigan to buy it but be charged when they come back to Ohio. We have the right to do a ban or a moratorium. We want to know exactly what the state is going to put on the table.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
Jonathan Delozier | Wellington Enterprise John Pardee speaks Monday during a Wellington village council meeting. He said his organization, the Ohio Rights Group, played a large part in the state passing HB 523 earlier this year, which allows limited growth and distribution of medical marijuana.