Pot farming ban in place until state clears the air

By Jonathan Delozier - jdelozier@civitasmedia.com

A moratorium on the growth or sale of medical marijuana within Wellington has passed the final hurdle and been passed into law.

Ohio House Bill 523 legalized medical marijuana in Ohio this past June.

But mayor Hans Schneider said more specific guidelines for cultivation and zoning of pot-farming operations need to be fleshed out before Wellington will consider lifting its ban.

Without more clarification on zoning, village officials say a marijuana dispensary or grow site could open up shop only to later find out it’s illegally located.

“It benefits the village to have a full understanding of the state law and it protects the business owner from putting money into something that’s not going to work,” said Schneider. “No one’s saying medical marijuana is a bad thing. We just need to understand it.”

HB 523 protects patients who use medical marijuana from criminal prosecution, denial of organ transplants, asset forfeiture, losing custody of a child, and the revocation of professional licenses.

However, employers still reserve the right to terminate workers who test positive for marijuana, even if they have a prescription.

Aspects that are still being sorted out include the exact amount of marijuana that constitutes the 90-day supply possession limit set in the bill and to what degree smaller grow business will be allowed to compete with larger ones.

Village council member Guy Wells said the state has specified more parts of the law, including what specific diseases can be treated by medical marijuana.

Diseases specified in the bill are AIDS/HIV, Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, cancer, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, fibromyalgia, glaucoma, hepatitis C, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, sickle cell anemia, spinal cord disease or injury, and general chronic and severe pain.

State Sen. Gayle Manning (R-North Ridgeville), who voted in favor of HB 523, said she empathizes with local concerns over gray areas in the state law.

“As you can imagine, HB 523 was very difficult to pass,” she said. “People were very passionate about now allowing it because they’re worried about it being a gateway to other drugs in the midst of the drug problem we have here. Sen. Dave Burke is the one who headed it up in the senate. He did a fabulous job, but at the same time, we didn’t have all the answers.”

She added that steps are being taken to address the bill’s shortcomings.

“An executive director has been hired to come in, fill in some of these holes, and make sure we get it right,” she said. “We’re letting the experts work on this. A lot of cities have called us to ask what is going on.”

When it comes to medical marijuana use versus use of addictive opiates, Manning said she sees why many patients would prefer the former.

“We’ve heard from people who have cancer that marijuana might be better for them than an opiate, ” she said. “Epilepsy is another one where many people have spoken out. I think if you do the bill right and protect other people by not allowing marijuana to be everywhere it can really benefit people.”

Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.

By Jonathan Delozier