MIDDLETOWN — Six years after prohibiting the cultivation, processing and retail dispensary marijuana establishments within the municipal limits of the city, Middletown leaders are discussing possibly revoking that ordinance.
City Manager Paul Lolli, during Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, said several residents have expressed interest in the city allowing medical marijuana businesses. In response, he wanted to ask how council felt about marijuana establishments before investing time by city staff and legal team.
Council member Rodney Muterspaw, a former police chief, said medical marijuana businesses are pharmacies. He called the issue “a hot topic” and he’d like council to hold a public hearing so residents can voice their opinions.
Lolli said Middletown residents, who possess a medical marijuana card, are leaving the city and patronizing local marijuana businesses — Monroe has one business and three more are expected to open — then returning to the city. Lolli said Middletown would like to capture those taxes.
Vice Mayor Monica Nenni agreed: “We are losing out on an opportunity.”
Council member Zack Ferrell said the city should start small with no more than two dispensaries. Those businesses would create jobs and generate tax revenue, he said. Those taxes could to used to “correct some problems” in the city, Ferrell said.
Mayor Nicole Condrey said medical marijuana is “more culturally accepted” today and she’d rather residents get it from a regulated source instead of off the streets.
Lolli said no dispensaries could be located downtown because medical businesses are banned in that area.
Police Chief David Birk said after talking to police officials in Monroe and Springfield — where retail dispensaries are located — there hasn’t been an increase in crime. Those police departments reported limited calls for service.
Marijuana businesses are “extremely secure,” Birk said.
In April, Monroe imposed a 180-day moratorium on the granting of any new permits allowing retail dispensaries for medical marijuana within city limits. Once the 180 days expire, City Council can extend the moratorium, according to Law Director Philip Callahan. He suggested emergency legislation to “get it on the books now.”
In 2022, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy approved adding 73 dispensary licenses statewide, including three in Monroe, pushing the city’s total to four.
Monroe has one marijuana dispensary operating and three more that are planned to open this year, city officials said. Once all four dispensaries are operational, Monroe, with a population of 15,412, will have one marijuana business per 3,853 residents, the highest rate in the state.
Two of the provisional licenses in Monroe were granted to Shangri-La Dispensary Ohio (Orton Drive in Warren County) and Clarence Warner Drive (Butler County) and one to Deaver Ohio on Brooks Drive (Warren County), according to the Ohio Department of Pharmacy.
Council member Michael Graves said he was concerned that additional dispensaries could open along Ohio 63, near Interstate 75, turning the city into the “Las Vegas strip of weed dispensaries.”
The licenses are issued based on the requests for treatment prescriptions in a geographic region. The city of Monroe is geographically located between two regions: Southwest Region Two (Butler County) and Southwest Region Five (Warren County).
HOW LOCAL JURISDICTIONS ARE HANDLING MARIJUANA DISPENSARIES
- City of Hamilton: The city of Hamilton Codified Ordinances prohibits the cultivation, processing, or retail dispensary of any medical marijuana. This ordinance was passed on Dec. 20, 2017.
- City of Middletown: On Feb. 21, 2017, the city of Middletown adopted Ordinance 2017-07 prohibiting the cultivation, processing, and retail dispensary establishments within the municipal limits of the city.
- City of Fairfield: On April 24, 2017, the city of Fairfield passed Ordinance 33-17 prohibiting cultivation, processing, and retail dispensing of medical marijuana within its corporate limits.
- City of Trenton: The city of Trenton originally had an ordinance prohibiting medical marijuana dispensaries. As of December 2021, that ordinance has been repealed and the code allows dispensaries as a conditional use.
- West Chester Twp.: On Jan. 23, 2018, West Chester Twp. adopted Resolution 04-2018 prohibiting the cultivation, processing, and retail dispensing of medical marijuana within the township. Prior to the prohibition, the township enacted a six-month moratorium to study whether to limit or entirely prohibit the use.
- Liberty Twp.: On March 8, 2017, Liberty Twp. amended its zoning resolution to prohibit the cultivation, processing, and retail dispensing of medical marijuana in all zoning districts.
- City of Oxford: The city of Oxford permits the retail dispensing of medical marijuana but does not seem to have formal legislation permitting or prohibiting the cultivation or processing of medical marijuana. Similarly, the city does not seem to have regulations as to whether or not its dispensaries are permitted uses or conditional uses. On Feb. 9, 2023, the dispensary, Consume Oxford, officially opened making it the first dispensary in Oxford. Oxford plans to open a second dispensary, Inspire Cannabis, later this year with construction of the site in progress.
- City of Franklin: Imposed a 180-day moratorium on granting medical marijuana permits to allow the city to study data and receive input from the police department regarding impact of these types of businesses. The moratorium was approved on Nov. 15, 2022, and expired on June 1, 2023. The City passed an ordinance prohibiting medical marijuana cultivation, processing, and dispensary activities. The ordinance went into effect on April 6, 2023.
- City of Lebanon: In January 2022, the city of Lebanon enacted a six-month moratorium on granting medical marijuana dispensary permits. The moratorium expired in August 2022. The council extended the moratorium another six months after a new rule from the Ohio Board of Pharmacy allowed an increase in the number of dispensaries from one to seven in its district, which includes Warren, Clinton and Clermont counties. The city has one dispensary, About Wellness Ohio, and has not created any issues for the police department. The Lebanon Planning Commission has recommended a zoning text amendment regulating medical marijuana that would include: Dispensaries as a conditional use in their general commercial district, limit the number of dispensaries allowed in the city to two; prohibit recreational use dispensaries; allow cultivation and production facilities in the city’s industrial use zones; provide use specific guidelines for facilities; and .add marijuana related definitions to the zoning code.
- City of Mason: On Jan. 22, 2018, the city of Mason approved Ordinance 2017-139 prohibiting medical marijuana cultivation, processing and retail dispensaries in any zoning district, overlay or PUD.
SOURCE: Presentation from Tom Smith, city of Monroe’s development director
Cultivators: Level I cultivators are permitted to operate an initial marijuana cultivation area up to 25,000 square feet. Level II cultivators are permitted to operate an initial marijuana cultivation area of 3,000 square feet. Licensees may submit an expansion request pursuant to the cultivator rules.
Processors: A processor manufacturers medical marijuana products. There are three types of processors standalone, vertically integrated facilities, and a plant-only processor that is a cultivator who distributes plant material directly to dispensaries.
Testing laboratories: Testing laboratories include universities and private labs. There is no limit to the number of testing lab licenses that may be awarded by the Ohio Department of Commerce.
Dispensaries: The State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy licenses and regulates medical marijuana dispensaries.
SOURCE: The Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program