Middletown continues medical marijuana ban

Members of Middletown City Council are considering converting a temporary moratorium against medical-marijuana facilities into a ban that later can be lifted after Ohio officials issue rules governing such operations.

Council in September joined the list of Butler County governments that placed moratoriums on such facilities, and on Tuesday, City Manager Doug Adkins recommended changing it to a ban that later can be lifted if officials want.

“We now know they (state officials) will not have any regulations on how to do this until September of next year,” Adkins told the council. “With that in mind, staff has talked about it extensively, and we are recommending a ban of all the medical-marijuana stuff at this time — cultivation, growing, sales, all of that, until the regulations are out.”

“We can always remove the ban,” Adkins said. “Our concern is that these things get open and established, and then two years from now, trying to get them reined back in. We don’t believe that’s the best way to go forward in the city of Middletown.”

“If we see the regulations in ‘18 and go, ‘Wow, this would be great for the city,’ all we have to do is remove the ban,” Adkins said.

RELATED: Health conditions eligible for medical marijuana in Ohio

Council is expected to act on the matter at its Feb. 21 meeting.

The two-page ordinance makes no mention of a later possible lifting of the ban. Instead, it states, “The cultivation, processing or retail dispensing of medical marijuana, even under a license issued under Chapter 3796 of the Ohio Revised Code, is prohibited within the City of Middletown. The violation of this ordinance is a misdemeanor of the fourth degree.”

Asked by Council Member Talbott Moon whether anyone has expressed interest in such operations in the city, Adkins said officials received several phone calls inquiring about obtaining licenses to open.

They were told, “the answer is you can’t,” he said.

The state in December made draft regulations available for public comments, with hopes of having full regulations in place by September 2018.

According to a memo from Assistant Law Director Susan Cohen, the city convened staff from several departments — Law, Planning, Zoning, Public Safety, Health, and Economic Development — to research appropriate regulations.

“Given the nature of the issue and the lack of guidance in regulation, it is the joint recommendation from city staff that council enact a ban on medical marijuana cultivation and distribution at this time,” Cohen wrote. “This would prevent any businesses from operating at this time, but will preserve all options for future review.”

She noted the city also could let the moratorium expire and let market forces take over, but cautioned: “This will create uncertainty because we will allow businesses to open under the current zoning code, which was not created to address these types of businesses. Allowing businesses to open currently also might create further issue later if the City would like to regulate the business after seeing the State regulations.”

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