Hamilton City Council voted 5-1 last year to effectively ban in the city the sale of medical marijuana through its zoning codes, and Cincinnati attorney Mike Allen said it may have a legal issue since it will soon be legal in Ohio to prescribe medical marijuana in limited forms.
The bill signed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich last week won’t allow marijuana to be smoked or grown at home, but would allow for it to be prescribed in alternative forms, such as patches, vapors and edibles.
At the beginning of 2015, the city of Hamilton had debated the issue of the marijuana ban, mainly as a preemptive strike against the citizen-led push to legalize marijuana in Ohio. That initiative eventually failed on the November 2015 ballot, but the Hamilton zoning ordinance is still on the books.
A municipal ordinance cannot conflict with state law, Allen said, unless that municipality is a home rule city — which affords cities more flexibility in establishing laws. Given the fact that Hamilton is a home rule city, “it gets a little bit dicier,” said Allen. “It will end up being a court battle.”
“I think it’s problematic,” he said. “I think the city of Hamilton will be hard pressed to justify banning the sale of all medical marijuana on a zoning basis.”
Hamilton Mayor Pat Moeller said the issue hasn’t yet been discussed by council because the bill was signed by Kasich less than a week ago, and won’t take effect until Sept. 6.
Moeller, who is an attorney, said he hasn’t fully read the new law.
“We’re still learning about the regulations,” Moeller said. “We’ll have to take a look at it and go from there.”
And as everyone is still learning about it, Allen said, “It will take some time for Ohio to become used to the new law. It’s going to be like anything else when there’s a new statute.”
It’s likely any other community would enact a similar ban because of the potential legal battle that could arise, Allen said.
One local township trustee said if a similar ban is proposed, he’d oppose it.
West Chester Twp. Trustee George Lang said the issue “hasn’t even showed up on the radar screen.” But if it did, he told this news outlet that he wouldn’t fight against it.
“I’m in favor of medical marijuana,” Lang said.
“There is some good that can be done,” the longtime trustee said, referring to the medicinal benefits of marijuana. “I don’t have a problem with medically based marijuana. It’s certainly no worse that the opiates that are being prescribed and abused.”
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