Fairfield looks to ban medical marijuana businesses

9:27 p.m Tuesday, April 11, 2017 Fairfield & Fairfield Twp
The city of Fairfield is expected to be the next Butler County community to address the issue of medical marijuana. City Council is expected to vote on banning all aspects of the medical marijuana business within the city.. (Brent Drinkut/Statesman-Journal via AP, File)

The city of Fairfield could become the second Butler County municipality to ban all aspects of the medical marijuana business.

As the rules and regulations are being drafted by the state, City Council decided it was time to make a decision, less than a month before the state starts accepting applications for marijuana cultivation.

The matter was discussed in the council-manager briefing on Monday, which was ahead of the City Council meeting. Vice Mayor Bill Woeste asked council if reasons existed to not institute a ban, which he said can be reversed later if needed.

“I don’t think we have to look to far to find a lot of reasons why we probably don’t want to (allow medical marijuana) … but at the same time we need to look at the other side,” he said.

In June 2016, Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed into law a bill that legalized marijuana for medicinal uses with 21 conditions, like cancer, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder or chronic pain. It allows multiple forms of medical marijuana to be sold, such as edibles, oils, patches and vaporizing, but smoking the plant is not allowed. Neither are home grow operations.

Regulation of medical marijuana will be handled by:

There are a number of types of businesses within the medical marijuana field — cultivation, processing, testing laboratories and dispensaries — that a community could have, according to the state’s Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program.

Fairfield joins a growing list of Butler County communities to place a moratorium or outright ban on medical marijuana.

The city of Middletown in September imposed a moratorium on medical marijuana cultivation, processing, testing and dispensing, and in February made it a ban on the industry.

The outright ban goes beyond Fairfield staff recommendation, which City Manager Mark Wendling said would be to ban the dispensaries and impose a moratorium on the remaining parts of the medical marijuana business until the rules and regulations are written.

Several other Butler County communities — Liberty, Ross and Fairfield townships — have instituted a moratorium, waiting to find out more as rules and regulations are drafted, and the city of Hamilton banned dispensaries.

“Our biggest concern are the dispensaries because they are going to be a cash business, so that brings problems with that,” said Fairfield Police Lt. Ken Gerold.

He said the dispensary part of the business is likely to attract an increase of burglaries and robberies, and with marijuana in the store, “people will try to get their hands on it without paying for it.

Gerold also said it “sends a mixed message” with the police department working with schools on anti-drug campaigns.

An outright ban “is cleaner” than a moratorium, said Fairfield Law Director John Clemmons.

“Moratoriums have always been kind of iffy, they’ve been challenged in different ways over the years,” he said. “The ban is clearly permitted by the state law, so it’s cleaner legally, but obviously a lot of places are using the moratorium.”

Chris Lindsey, the senior legislative counsel with Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project, said the move is not unusual, but “it’s unfortunate for communities to shut the door, even for patient access.”

He said the concerns law enforcement and government leaders have with potential new problems — people consuming marijuana products on the premises or on the way home — is still illegal activity.

”If you’re going to assume people are going to break the law no matter, I’m not sure (a ban is) the right approach,” Lindsey said. “Pharmaceuticals and opioids are an epidemic in Ohio. I don’t see communities rushing to ban pharmacies. People are entitled to reasonable and safe access.”

“Once the program is up and running, folks will have a better understanding of how this is going to work,” Lindsey said. “I hope that communities, like this, will revisit these rules.”

It could be as early as the city’s next meeting, which is on April 24, when the council could introduce legislation.

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