Liberty officials debate legal pot

Liberty Twp. considers moratorium on medical marijuana businesses

After a failed attempt at legalizing marijuana both for recreational and medical use, the state legislature and Gov. John Kasich signed into law a measure that will allow it only for medicinal purposes.

State Sen. Bill Coley, R-West Chester Twp., met with trustees Tuesday in a work session to discuss the new legislation. He encouraged them to place a moratorium on the medical drug while they figure out how they want to tackle the issue.

“We are very concerned about what the township wants to do, to make sure the zoning people have the total ability to prohibit it if they don’t want it…,” Coley said. “I would recommend at least putting a moratorium on unless you have a lot constituents that have come and said I really need to do this.”

The trustees plan to seek legal counsel to help them figure out the best route to take.

“I think it’s clear we’re all on the same page,” trustee board President Tom Farrell said. “We don’t want this right now at least until they come out with the rules.It’s just a matter of how we’re going to put the brakes on this. Whether it’s going to be a moratorium, a ban or put the zoning in and not allow it.”

While the rules governing marijuana use aren’t due until September 2018, Trustee Christine Matacic said the township needs something in place now.

“My gut feeling right now is maybe we do what other communities have done and that is we say we’re either going to ban them or put a moratorium or something on, until we find out what the rules are,” she said. “Until we know what the rules are, I would not feel comfortable with permitting anything at this point.”

While marijuana grown in Ohio is months away from being available, those with doctor’s notes can use medical marijuana from other states where it is legal starting in September.

Those who use marijuana legally can still be fired and denied unemployment benefits if they violate their workplace drug policies.

When the rules do come out, Farrell told the Journal-News earlier in the day officials will better know where to fit the new business classification in their zoning.

“In essence, a moratorium is the only tool we have in our bag that allows us to buy some time, to educate ourselves on this new business, what it means to the township and its residents,” he said. “Then when we’ve educated ourselves, then we can decide where and when those businesses can come to the township.”

The law specifically gives townships and cities the right to regulate and deny medical marijuana dispensaries.

West Chester Twp. Trustee George Lang said he believes that township’s zoning laws already address medical uses and the rules the state is working on could very well make local laws moot. He is a proponent of the new law.

“If we can help people we should help them,” he said. “I don’t believe marijuana is a gateway drug and if it’s legal in the state I don’t want to be an impediment to someone who is seeking that treatment.”

The city of Hamilton banned medical marijuana last year, primarily as a preemptive strike when the movement was on to legalize both medical and recreational pot.

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