Middletown leaders consider allowing Medical Marijuana businesses
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).