Liberty Twp. bans all medical marijuana businesses

Liberty Twp. trustees have agreed to ban all medical marijuana businesses, but may reconsider later allowing dispensaries after more research can be done.

The township’s legal counsel advised trustees that extending the moratorium that has been in place for over a year could be problematic, so trustees began the process to ban such new businesses, according to Liberty Twp. Trustee Steve Schramm.

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“It appears as if most of the good business opportunities have passed us by — the testing facilities, the processing facilities — that leaves you with basically retail outlets,” Schramm said. “It appears there’s been nobody in Liberty that has even applied for one. My only reason for hanging on to the moratorium as long as I did was we might have some kind of business opportunity and now they are all gone.”

Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed into law last year a bill that legalizes marijuana for medicinal uses, including 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.

Bryan Behrmann, the township’s director of planning and zoning, said he recommended the ban — which can be undone at a later date — be placed now because there are still too many unknowns.

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“It was our recommendation that since the moratorium is expiring in March that we ban it at this point in time until we figure out how we want to address it long term,” Behrmann said. “There is still some interest to take a look at it and potentially allow it in some form.”

Under the law the state will allow up to 60 dispensaries. Behrmann said 370 applications were submitted to the state and 11 of them were from Butler County. He said Butler County is in the district with Darke and Preble counties and only two dispensaries can be located in the district.

Liberty Twp. Trustee Tom Farrell said he can see that number increasing as the program matures and once he has a better handle on the rules and regulations for retail outlets he might favor allowing those businesses in the township.

“For medical marijuana, to supply people that medically need this I believe is an amenity and an asset to the community,” Farrell said. “So I want to leave the door open for Liberty be one of those two locations.”

Farrell and fellow Liberty Twp. Trustee Christine Matacic have had big concerns that if they allow medical marijuana in and recreational pot ever is deemed legal, the approved dispensaries could turn into pot shops.

“Our biggest concern was that a medical marijuana dispensary, if marijuana were legal in the state would basically become a head shop,” Farrell said. “That is not something we want in this township. That was one of our original aversions.”

Farrell said he believes they could craft legislation in such a way that prevents that possible happenstance.

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Matacic said she wants her residents to understand the trustees aren’t against medical marijuana and certainly can’t and wouldn’t stop people from using it, but they need to be cautious where their zoning is concerned.

“We understand there are medical reasons why people need the medical marijuana,” she said. “It’s just that with it being such a new business, we have to take a look at it just like we take a look at all of our other businesses. What are the rules, we know some of the rules but there is still more of that to come from the state legislature… I want to know what it’s about before I put a business in our community.”

So far in Butler County, Hamilton, Middletown, Fairfield and West Chester Twp. have banned the sale of medical marijuana. Middletown, Fairfield and West Chester Twp. have also banned cultivation and production of medical marijuana, and Fairfield and Ross Twp. have placed moratoriums on the industry.

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