Lebanon to consider new limit on more medical marijuana dispensaries

Lebanon City Council is expected to gather Tuesday at city hall for a vote on a moratorium for additional medical marijuana dispensaries. FILE PHOTO
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Lebanon City Council is expected to gather Tuesday at city hall for a vote on a moratorium for additional medical marijuana dispensaries. FILE PHOTO

City already has one such location, but license expansion by Ohio Board of Pharmacy could potentially lead to another.

A new rule by the Ohio Board of Pharmacy would increase the number of medical marijuana dispensary licenses from one to seven in the district that includes Warren, Clinton and Clermont counties.

The new rule has prompted Lebanon City Council to consider imposing a 180-day moratorium for further study and evaluation.

The state Board of Pharmacy approved adding 73 more dispensary licenses on April 19 to the 57 current licenses already created. That would bring the total of licenses that could be issued to 130 after the next application round is completed. According to the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program’s website, 55 of the original 57 licenses have already been awarded.

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Warren, Clinton and Clermont counties are in one of the 31 dispensary zones in the state. There is one dispensary in the zone which is located in Lebanon, About Wellness Ohio, 1525 Genntown Drive, Suite B. The next closest dispensary would be Strawberry Fields, 300 N. Main St. in Monroe.

During a work session Monday, Lebanon City Council discussed imposing a 180-day moratorium on locating a dispensary in Lebanon pending further review. Council is expected to vote on the proposed moratorium at its Tuesday meeting.

It will not be the first time council has considered a moratorium. In 2017, council spent several months debating whether it should impose a moratorium. Council ended the debate by letting the proposed legislation die without a vote.

City Manager Scott Brunka said Lebanon’s zoning code allows medical marijuana dispensaries to be located anywhere a pharmacy can go. He said council could impose the moratorium for more time to study the issue.

Law Director Mark Yurick said the moratorium would not impact the city’s current medical marijuana dispensary operator.

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Yurick said he still cannot understand how the state can award licenses for medical marijuana businesses, even though marijuana is still a prohibited drug. He also added that he didn’t understand how these businesses get around federal banking laws.

“It sends an incredibly mixed message on how the community feels about marijuana,” Yurick said.

The state Medical Marijuana Control Program said it used the following factors to determine the number of dispensary licenses such as the population of the state; the number of patients seeking to use medical marijuana; and the geographic distribution of dispensary sites. The state is using a metric of 1,200 registered patients per dispensary per district in an attempt to strike a balance between expanding patient access and ensuring viable dispensary operations.

There are no changes to the rule on the number of dispensaries an owner can have and that limit remains at five dispensaries.

More information on applying for a dispensary license is expected to be released soon by the state Medical Marijuana Control Program.