Hamilton City Council to consider prohibiting some marijuana licenses

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Hamilton City Council could be the first city in the region to prohibit cannabis operators from opening shops in Butler County’s capital city.

On Wednesday, the council held a lengthy discussion on the board’s options a week after Ohioans voted to legalize recreational marijuana. On Nov. 7, nearly 57% of Ohioans approved state Issue 2, which permits adults 21 and over to legally possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, as well as use and grow (six plants per person and 12 per household) beginning Dec. 7. This is an expansion of Ohio’s marijuana laws as the state legislature approved the use of medical marijuana in 2016.

But the day before the new law is set to take effect, City Council plans to vote on prohibiting recreational marijuana licenses for operators, cultivators, and processors in Hamilton.

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Ohio will eventually be issuing licenses for the retail sale of marijuana, cultivation of the plant, processing if it, and research laboratories to test it. But licenses for the four types of users will take time. The Division of Cannabis Control has up to six months to begin accepting license applications and up to nine months to establish its rules and licensing guidelines, provided Ohio lawmakers don’t amend Issue 2, which could happen.

Hamilton Council’s potential action is allowed by the voter-approved law. A legislative body may either prohibit or limit the number of adult-use cannabis operators, cultivators, and processors, which mirrors a legislative body’s options for medical marijuana.

However, according to the new law, no local legislative body can prohibit laboratory research related to marijuana, including at a state university, academic medical center, or private research and development organization.

Hamilton previously passed a zoning ordinance against the three types of licenses as they related to medical marijuana.

With the new law, they will not be able to prohibit home-grown marijuana as well as levy any tax, fee, or charge on adult-use operators of cannabis.

[W]e've worked so hard on this town, I really don't want to see one of these in downtown Hamilton. We've worked very hard to make Hamilton what it is ... and I think it would poison what we did.

- Hamilton City Council member Eric Pohlman

Hamilton City Attorney Letitia Block said the council could always change course on any prohibition in the city.

“Maybe prohibiting and then seeing how it goes in the rest of the state might be the way to go because who knows what it’s going to look like anywhere across this city,” said Mayor Pat Moeller.

Block contacted other jurisdictions and said many communities are considering a prohibition because of the uncertainty.

“I think that’s where a number of people are...if it’s safer to go ahead and prohibit and they’ll see what happens.”

Block said the council can always roll back the ordinance if they approve it and the board chooses to go in a different direction later.

If Hamilton, or any other community, takes no action and lets it play out, people could apply for licenses to be a dispensary in a community. If a person is awarded a license and finds a place to operate, then that business would be allowed, and communities would be limited in their options.

Fairfield City Manager Scott Timmer said it’s “to be determined” if his city council will entertain this type of legislation in the coming weeks. Middletown City Manager Paul Lolli said “not at this time” when asked if his council would be considering any prohibition or limitation of recreational marijuana licenses soon.

Council member Eric Pohlman said he would be satisfied with prohibiting what City Council can and move on.

“I’ll be real honest, we’ve worked so hard on this town, I really don’t want to see one of these in downtown Hamilton,” he said. “We’ve worked very hard to make Hamilton what it is ... and I think it would poison what we did.”

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