- Denise G. Callahan Staff Writer
West Chester Twp. has officially banned medical marijuana businesses from operating in the township, joining the majority of Butler County jurisdictions that have already done so.
Saying people can still use medical marijuana when it becomes available, West Chester trustees officially banned the businesses within their zoning codes last week.
Trustees determined that businesses that want to cultivate, process and dispense medical marijuana have no place within the township months ago, and they made it official by approving text amendments that ban the businesses in their zoning codes.
Trustee Board member Mark Welch has said there are too many unknowns about the issue to allow those businesses in West Chester Twp. but people can still use it.
“It is going to be available by state law in September 2018 and anyone who gets a proper prescription for some kind of an illness that this cannabis can help, can certainly take it in West Chester,” said Trustee Board member Mark Welch. “We would encourage people, if they have a disease that would be helped by cannabis, to get that prescription.”
Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed into law in 2016 a bill that legalizes marijuana for medicinal uses, including cancer, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder or chronic pain. It allows multiple forms of medical marijuana to be sold, such as edibles, oils, patches and vaporizing, but smoking the plant is not allowed. Neither are home-grow operations.
Interim Administrator Larry Fronk told the trustees last fall that the staff did an exhaustive study on the impact medical marijuana could have on the community. As far as a revenue generator, Fronk said it would be insignificant. Any cultivating operations would be taxed as commercial greenhouses, and the only one of those currently in the township raises only about $4,000 in property taxes.
He said retail establishments would likely end up renting in strip malls, so no revenue would come to the township from those, because sales tax can only be collected by the county.
One of the more possible impacts he mentioned was a negative one.
“By permitting medical marijuana in West Chester Twp. how susceptible does the township then become should the state of Ohio, at some point in the future, permit recreational marijuana,” Fronk said. “Well, you’ve certainly started down the slippery slope if we go in that direction.”
Liberty Twp. officially banned the businesses at the end of last year, but the township is continuing to gather information in case they decide to repeal the ban on dispensaries in the future.
As part of their information-gathering exercise, Trustee Board President Tom Farrell has asked a medical professional he met on the campaign trail last fall to come and talk to his fellow trustees and staff on the pros and cons of the drug and what she has learned about the entire issue.
“She is coming to address us as a group to talk to us about medical marijuana, its benefits, the pluses and the minuses, what she has experienced in other areas when it comes to medical versus recreational,” Farrell said. “She was very educated on the subject and I wanted her to share this information with us as part of that process.”
As for the rest of Butler County, Hamilton, Liberty, Middletown and Fairfield have banned the sale of the drug — Liberty, Middletown and Fairfield have also banned cultivation and production — Fairfield and Ross townships and the city of Trenton are all under moratoriums.
Oxford has not banned medical marijuana businesses.
Monroe did not ban the businesses, and the state approved a growing site within the city last year.