More than 70 concerned citizens packed Hamilton’s Council Chambers Wednesday night to voice their opinions on a measure to ban medical marijuana sales in the city’s limits.
Six people spoke at the podium during the standing-room-only public hearing on a zoning ordinance change regarding medical marijuana sales. Hamilton Mayor Pat Moeller emphasized before the public hearing opened that the statewide vote for marijuana legalization “will be a citizen voter issue if it comes on the ballot in November,” and that the item up for discussion at this meeting was purely a zoning issue.
The six voices heard at the podium were divided down the middle of the debate, with three residents strongly against the ban, and three residents supporting the city’s proposal.
Taylor Anderson-Hall, of Hamilton, spoke of her experience battling Burkitt Lymphoma, a type of cancer, and how smoking marijuana helped her eat after treatment made her too nauseous to keep anything down.
“They told me, you’ll die if you don’t eat. I went from laying in a hospital bed… feeling like I was in hell…to (my boyfriend) bringing me these little joints and leaving and me going to the bathroom and smoking, taking a shower and coming out and just sort of being happy.” she said. “It could have been one of the things that saved my life.”
Nick Turner, a lifelong Hamiltonian, said he thought this proposal indicated the city was “still stuck in the past.”
“We’re not looking at the new information coming out…at, say, Colorado where not only have they had a market increase in tax revenues, they’ve also had a market decrease in crime,” he said. “I don’t understand why that wouldn’t be good in our city.”
Anthony Weisenberger, of Hamilton, spoke against the zoning change, citing the medical components of a marijuana plant and the economic incentives that Hamilton would miss out on if they banned those sales.
“If the medical component isn’t enough to sway you, perhaps tax revenue would,” he said.
Pastor Barry Clardy, of Princeton Pike Church of God, voiced his strong opposition to selling medical marijuana, except if controlled by the state and federally regulated facilities.
“Hamilton is the city of hope, not the city of dope,” Clardy said.
Pastor Josh Willis, of the Grace Chapel of Praise in Hamilton, identified himself as a former addict, and though he “sympathize(s) with people who have other problems,” he supported Clardy in asking the city to “not open this gate.”
“We cannot become economical prostitutes for the sake of raising taxes and money,” he said. “It didn’t work with gambling, it didn’t work with the casinos, it didn’t work with the lottery, and it’s not going to work with this.”
Laura Marsh, new director of the Butler County Coalition for Healthy, Safe, and Drug-Free Communities, voiced her support for the ban, stating that levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical in marijuana that creates the high, are much higher now than they were in the 1960s.
“Back in the day when I was in college, the THC level was under 10 percent,” she said. “Now, they eat a whole cookie that has level 60, 80, 90 percent, and they die from eating an edible.”
Proponents of both sides received support from the audience, but the majority of attendees were in favor of the ban, as evidenced by the boisterous applause that followed Clardy, Willis, and Marsh’s remarks.
Weisenberger said after the meeting that he wished some of the points made could have been fact-checked during the public hearing, calling some of the statements made by the anti-marijuana backers “a complete lie.”
He said marijuana is not the gateway drug that people allege, and they go to drug dealers who offer other kinds of illegal substances.
Anderson-Hall said after the hearing that she personally knows people who are successful that smoke marijuana and are not tempted to try other drugs.
“Correlation is not the same as causation,” she added. “Just because they smoke weed doesn’t mean they would try other drugs.”
She said those who are susceptible to try harder drugs would probably end up trying them even if marijuana did not exist.
“I honestly think it’s embarrassing” that Hamilton is considering the legislation, she added.
City Council members did not make any comments during the public hearing. Council members heard the first reading of the ordinance at Wednesday’s meeting, and will hear a second reading and vote at the Feb. 25 meeting.