NORTH ROYALTON – City council has opted to extend the moratorium on medical marijuana another six months in hopes the state is closer to having its regulatory system in place by then.
Medical marijuana was legalized in September via Ohio House Bill 523, creating the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program that will allow Ohioans with certain medical conditions to obtain a recommendation for medical marijuana, purchase it from a licensed dispensary and consume it.
The bill provides the basic framework; however, the creation and implementation of specific rules and guidelines regarding the cultivation, processing, testing, dispensing and medical use of the drug is the task of various state agencies, in the works now.
City council has not decided whether or not it will allow the drug to be dispensed or cultivated in North Royalton.
It first enacted a six-month moratorium back in September, which would have lapsed next month, to allow the state more time to establish the program guidelines.
Much of council reasoned at a special review and oversight meeting Feb. 7 that a second six-month moratorium is adequate. Indications are the state could have the program finalized later in the year, according to council President Larry Antoskiewicz.
Ward 3 Councilman Dan Langshaw disagreed, wanting a year-long moratorium instead, hearing the state program will not be fully functional until spring 2018 at the earliest. He said, too, that President Donald Trump has not fully installed his cabinet, a cabinet that could bring about changes to marijuana at the federal level. Currently marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 drug by the federal government, stating it has no legitimate medical use despite states legalizing it for that reason.
“If it is the intent of council to make an informed decision, 12 months is more than enough time,” he said.
But if the city enacts a six-month moratorium now, it could wind up doing a third in six months, Langshaw added.
“I think that’s bad press,” he said.
Members were leery of enacting too lengthy a halt as moratoriums are generally frowned upon.
“You want to try and put it for an amount of time that you think will let you deal with the subject with all the information. Another six months puts us in a position to see where we are at,” Antoskiewicz said.
If need be, another moratorium could be enacted at that point when more information on the topic is released from the state, he said.
Langshaw does not support medical marijuana as it is a Schedule 1 drug.
Ward 1 Councilman John Nickell said he is open minded because there have been reports of medical marijuana having life-changing results and referenced a 4-year old who made news after experiencing significantly fewer seizures while using it.
“I’m looking at the medical side. The city has a lot of agriculture too. We might miss out on the economic opportunity that it can provide while all the other communities around us participate, like we missed out on the interchange which hurt our industrial park by not having direct access to the interstate,” Nickell said. “And I’m not fear mongering just to get my name in the paper.”
Antoskiewicz said he didn’t want council to get into a debate on medical marijuana versus recreational. Whether each supports it or not, state law has legalized the medicinal version.
“The more difficult part about medical marijuana is we have to decide do we want to let it be dispensed or grown in the city limits? That’s the issue. That is the only issue. I may not like cigarettes, but they are legal and sold in every grocery store,” he said.
Langshaw said his viewpoint is merely cautionary, “I think it’s prudent to take an extremely cautionary approach, that’s how I view it.”
Council ultimately opted in a 6-1 vote for a six-month extension. Langshaw was the sole no vote.
Mayor Bob Stefanik said after the meeting, whether the moratorium is six or 12 months is trivial.
“You can create a six-month moratorium and if rules or guidelines dramatically change in three months, council has the authority to repeal the moratorium at that time. Going in the other direction, if nothing is solved in six months, council can simply enact an extension of the moratorium. But council shouldn’t base their thoughts on public opinion or what looks good in the press,” he said, referring to Langshaw’s fear that a third moratorium would be “bad press,” “Each needs to base his or her vote on what is in the best interest of the community in general.”