Butler County cities take varying approaches to medical pot

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Butler County cities take varying approaches to medical pot

Amid the growing number of Butler County communities that have either banned or just temporarily prohibited medical marijuana businesses is at least one that says such a dispensary could be a good thing for the local economy.

With full implementation of the new state law about two years off and rules governing the retail sale, cultivation and processing of marijuana not yet written, most municipalities have elected to proceed with caution.

Some, including Liberty Twp. and Ross Twp., have enacted moratoriums on the businesses until closer to the September 2018 date when the state’s rules are scheduled to be finalized.

Others, such as Hamilton, have outright banned the sale of marijuana.

But Oxford and West Chester Twp. are among Butler County communities that haven’t come out with moratoriums or bans on such businesses.

Having one of the state’s 60 planned medical marijuana dispensaries in Oxford could be a good thing for the city’s business district, City Manager Douglas Elliott Jr. told the Journal-News.

“We’ve not taken an official stand, nor have I recommended one,” Elliott said. “I believe the council’s open to allowing a dispensary in Oxford, in our business district.”

The city is monitoring the situation, he said.

Middletown also created a six-month moratorium last September, but is poised Tuesday to lift it in favor of a ban.

City Manager Doug Adkins has told Middletown City Council that the ban can be lifted — or not — after state rules take full effect. Adkins has expressed concern that if facilities were to establish themselves in the city, it would be difficult to rein them in later.

West Chester Twp. officials last year said it would be premature to put a moratorium on such businesses.

“Because we may be doing work the state’s already doing,” Trustee George Lang said in a nod to the yet-to-be disclosed state regulations.

But some proponents of medical marijuana say cities that ban dispensaries may find themselves on the outside looking in on what are expected to be safe, professionally operated facilities that can bring shoppers, diners and other visitors to their communities.

“I don’t feel negatively about communities that choose this course — I just think they’re missing out, and there are plenty of others that are welcoming it,” said Brian Wright, executive director of the Ohio Cannabis Association. “Everybody has to make the choice that works for their community, but unfortunately, they’re not recognizing the benefits, and they will, as time goes on.”

Wright wishes patients could get help now to ease their medical conditions, but on the other hand acknowledges that the state is being careful to make sure the industry operates the best way possible. Taking the time to get it right is a good thing, he said.

Holly Walters of Middletown was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis five years ago and wishes she could obtain medical marijuana legally to ease the disease’s symptoms.

“When I first got diagnosed, my feet went numb, my legs went numb, my back,” said Walters, 33, a 2002 Middletown High School graduate. “I couldn’t feel from my neck down for about a two-week period, and it lasted for five or six months.”

She still has pain in her feet and legs, and sometimes her arms. She also has fibromyalgia, and occasional confusion and anxiety, especially when her surroundings are noisy.

“The pain I have isn’t a pain-pill pain, and I don’t want to take pain pills — I don’t want to take pills at all,” Walters said. “But there are pills that are made for certain things, and I’m down with that, and I do take some.”

“I would just like to be able to take a gummy bear (containing marijuana extracts) or something …” Walters said.

Brandt Jones, who manages Renaissance Fine Art Supplies in downtown Hamilton, said he hopes a Butler County community will allow a dispensary.

“There’s a lot more advantages to it than disadvantages,” he said, adding it would reduce crime surrounding the marijuana trade and provide medical relief for people with chronic pain.

But, he said, “I understand, nobody wants dispensaries flooding their cities and jurisdictions.”

Wright thinks it would be a more prudent if local governments created three-month moratoriums on dispensaries, rather than a ban, or a moratorium until the rollout of the new rules in September 2018. Dispensary companies are inquiring now, he said, and their decisions will be made well before then.

“You’re going to have jobs created, you’re going to have more people who have strong incomes shopping at local establishments … it’s going to be a real boost for these local economies,” he said.

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