Middletown council rejects extended moratorium for recreational marijuana businesses

Steve West II says after Ohio voter approval: ‘People have spoken. No more excuses.’

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Middletown City Council said no to extending a moratorium on recreational use marijuana businesses and indicated repeal of the 2017 ban on medical marijuana dispensaries could come soon.

Members voted 3-2 on Tuesday night against the city staff’s request for recreational use moratorium extension to allow regulations to the development code to be adopted before potential applications were received. The regulations will spell out both locations and licensing fees specific to the city, and they must first go to the planning commission before being presented to council in an ordinance.

The current moratorium on recreational use expires June 16. The staff recommended another moratorium through December. But if the process took less time, the moratorium could be lifted early, according to Ben Yoder, law director.

“We don’t want this to be on the books any longer than necessary,” Yoder said.

He estimated the ordinance, with the code changes, would be before council in September.

Councilman Steve West II said he opposed any extension.

“We need to move out on medicinal period,” West said. “I don’t want there to be a moratorium in the city at all, period.”

Ohio voters overwhelmingly approved recreational marijuana in a November ballot issue.

West said, “People have spoken. No more excuses. Enough.”

Moratoriums could cost Ohio cities tax revenue from the businesses, supporters have said.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Yoder said while the current route takes longer because it has to go through planning commission, it takes away the ambiguity of definitions of medical and recreational businesses, “which can lead to litigation” if not defined in the code.

But the state has defined locations and has a licensing procedure in place for medical marijuana dispensaries, Yoder said, adding that is not troubling to him if the council wants to repeal the ordinance sooner than later. The ambiguity comes in definitions of businesses in recreational use, which the state is still gapping with, and will leave any applications up to staff if the city code is not amended first.

City staff recommended an ordinance to change the development codes to include both medical and recreational all at one time.

Some council members pointed out realistically recreational use businesses will not happen immediately because they would still be required to get a permit from the state, thus the moratorium is not needed.

West and council members Paul Horn and Zack Ferrell voted against the moratorium with Mayor Elizabeth Slamka and Councilwoman Jennifer Carter voting for it.

The city will continue the procedure to amend the development code for both types of marijuana businesses and an ordinance will be presented in the near future.

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