Ban of Recreational Marijuana licenses being considered

Ban of recreational marijuana licenses being considered

Legislation to be discussed at Dec 4 city council meeting will include ban on operators, processors and cultivators in the city.

Fairfield is considering not allowing businesses with a recreational marijuana license to operate within the city, something other local governments are considering across the state.

Just more than a week before legalized recreational marijuana is permitted in Ohio, city council debated legislation Monday that would prohibit cannabis operators, cultivators and processors from hanging a shingle in Fairfield.

Nearly three weeks ago, Ohioans voted to legalize recreational marijuana, making the Buckeye State the 24th state to legalize recreational marijuana. On Nov. 7, nearly 57% of Ohioans approved state Issue 2, and the law takes effect on Dec. 7, which allows adults 21 and over to legally possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, as well as use and grow (six plants per person and 12 per household).

This is an expansion of Ohio’s marijuana laws as the state legislature approved the use of medical marijuana in 2016.

Fairfield City Council decided to hold the ordinance considering the ban to a first reading and will pick up the recreational marijuana and cannabis discussion at its Dec. 4 meeting. At that time, it will take five council members to suspend any rules to adopt legislation that night.

Two weeks ago, Hamilton City Council presented its possible plan to prohibit cannabis operators from opening shops in its city, and will consider approving legislation at its Dec. 6 meeting.

While the two communities are considering banning operators, cultivators and processors partly because of the unknown, some on either council just don’t want to see that type of business operate in their city.

Hamilton Council member Eric Pohlman is one of those on Hamilton’s council, saying two weeks ago, “[W]e’ve worked so hard on this town, I really don’t want to see one of these in downtown Hamilton.”

Fairfield Vice Mayor Tim Meyers said while 35 of the city’s 37 precincts supported legalizing the use of marijuana in the state, legislative bodies still have the say in which businesses can and cannot operate in their communities. Fairfield and Hamilton were two of many communities to ban medical marijuana license holders from operating in their cities.

“Our constituents, in my mind, have already looked at this; they have already approved it,” he said of the adult recreational use of marijuana. “It’s our job as a legislative body here to make the determination as to the type of businesses (are here). This council has voted unanimously to put a moratorium on vape shops.”

Issue 2 does allow Fairfield and Hamilton city councils, or any other legislative body, to ban or limit license holders operating, which includes operators, cultivators, and processors, which mirrors a legislative body’s options for medical marijuana. However, according to the new law, no local legislative body can prohibit laboratory research related to marijuana, including at a state university, academic medical center, or private research and development organization.

Fairfield and Hamilton previously passed a zoning ordinance against licensing medical marijuana establishments.

With the new law, local governments also cannot prohibit home-grown marijuana as well as levy any tax, fee, or charge on adult-use operators of cannabis.

Council members Leslie Besl and Adam Kraft said they wanted to have constituents have a chance to address this issue given that 57% of Fairfield residents, which nearly mirrored the state total, approved of Issue 2.

“I think we all need to remember that while we’re all elected to make decisions on behalf of the city, we’re also here to be a voice of the people that we represent,” said Besl, who said her First Ward passed the issue by 63%. “I, in light of the Thanksgiving holiday, think it’s appropriate to give our residents time to weigh in on what they think. I think that seems only reasonable.”

Fairfield Council could approve the legislation Dec. 4 or wait another week for a third reading.

Fairfield Municipal Court Judge Joyce Campbell, who spoke during her 2024 budget presentation earlier in Monday’s meeting, said she doesn’t have a personal agenda against marijuana but did say “it saddens” her the issue passed because children are targeted with the products, like gummies.

“I don’t care what the people pushing it are telling you; it is a gateway drug,” the judge said. “I’m not saying if you smoke marijuana you’re going to become a heroin user. But what I am saying is this, in 25 years, of the thousands of heroin users I’ve dealt with, meth users, whatever else you want to use, not one of them, not one didn’t start with marijuana. Because I asked every one of them.”

Campbell said that just like alcohol is not permitted when she puts someone on probation, marijuana will also not be permitted.

“I can’t get you clean and sober and keep you that way if you’re going to use a mind-altering drug,” she said. “Partuciarlly with the mental health court because it interferes with their psychotropic meds.

Fairfield Law Director Steve Wolterman said municipal attorneys are having discussions across the state, and some municipalities are considering anything from bans or moratoriums or doing nothing.

Ohio will eventually be issuing licenses for the retail sale of marijuana, cultivation of the plant, processing of it, and research laboratories to test it. But licenses for the four types of users will take time. The Division of Cannabis Control has up to six months to begin accepting license applications and up to nine months to establish its rules and licensing guidelines, provided Ohio lawmakers don’t amend Issue 2, which could happen.

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Region: Ohio

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