Pot issue not set for City’s next agenda


City says marijuana legislation is not necessary to be selected for a dispensary.

“The State of Ohio authorized medical marijuana throughout the state,” Solicitor John Haas stated. “The only way to keep a dispensary or other medical marijuana facility out of Portsmouth is for City Council to pass an ordinance banning them.”

At the last City Council meeting, City Manager Derek Allen explained that the State of Ohio passed legislation approving medicinal marijuana last year. At that time, the City issued a six month moratorium on municipal legislation permitting a dispensary. Allen added that the City chose to issue the moratorium while awaiting guidelines from the State level. Still awaiting those guidelines, the City issued a second six month moratorium in February, which has now expired. He added that the State has now established guidelines and thus the City could make a decision as to how to proceed.

“It is an unusual situation given the City must take steps to ban rather than permit a business,” Haas explained. “Portsmouth City Council voted 5-1 not to ban. Therefore, a dispensary may be located in Portsmouth. No other action is necessary to permit a marijuana facility in the City limits subject to zoning restrictions.”

During, the last Council meeting, Portsmouth City Council members asked the solicitor to look into zoning issues. After reviewing current zoning laws within the City, Haas decided that currently established zoning would not prevent the dispensary.

“My review of the current zoning code leads me to the conclusion a dispensary in Business AA, Business A, Business B or Industrial Districts. Therefore, I am of the opinion, no legislation is necessary to effectuate Council’s directive,”he stated.

According to an article published in the Ironton Tribune on March 8, the Village of Chesapeake has already established legislation allowing for a dispensary and setting a fee schedule for any dispensary could potentially open in the Village. The article, written by Heath Harrison stated that the fee was set at $1,000 per year and $300 per month.

“A retail dispensary is prohibited from being located within 500 feet of a school, church, public library, public playground, or public park. In addition, cities, villages and townships may adopt additional regulations to prohibit or limit the number of retail dispensaries,” the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program states.

Ultimately, the State will make the decision based upon demographics, compliance a scoring system which will score applicants on their business plan, operations plan and patient care plan.

The Control Program further explained that the State Board of Pharmacy will begin accepting medical marijuana dispensary applications at 8 a.m., Nov. 3. Applications will be accepted until 2 p.m.,Nov. 17. Applications and all related materials must be submitted electronically through a web-based application accessible at www.medicalmarijuana.ohio.gov/dispensaries.

Prior to opening the application period, there will be two question and answer periods established to answer questions regarding the application process. The first question and answer period started Sept. 19 and will last until Oct. 5. The second question and answer period will be from Oct. 16 to Oct. 20.

Strand testing applications are also being accepted. The application period for universities interested in becoming a laboratory testing site began Sept. 11 and will end Sept. 22. During the first year, the Department of Commerce will only issue licenses to conduct laboratory testing of medical marijuana to institutions of higher education that are public, located within the state of Ohio and meet requirements established by the State.

For more information about guidelines or the application processes, visit www.medicalmarijuana.ohio.gov.

Portsmouth City Council will meet in regular session at 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 25 in Council Chambers on the second floor of the Municipal Building on Second Street in Portsmouth. However, Haas says the issue is not set to be discussed at the next meeting.

“There is nothing on the agenda with respect to medical marijuana because it was voted to not do prohibitive legislation,” Haas stated.

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.