Warren councilman wants to weed out potential problems with medical marijuana

WARREN — Councilman John Brown saw the problems the city had regulating massage parlors once they were open.

Brown, D-3rd Ward, doesn’t want the same thing to happen with medical marijuana now that it is legal in Ohio.

Brown is proposing a one-year moratorium on licensing any business involved in the cultivation, processing or retail sale of medical marijuana in the city.

“I want to be out in front of this,” Brown said. “The state of Ohio passed a medical marijuana law, but the details of it, they’re still not completed. It’s one of those things, ‘Vote for it and we’ll tell you what’s in it later.’ I’m not against medical marijuana, but we want to be able to regulate it within the city of Warren.”

The moratorium would give the city the chance to establish policies in advance rather than try to implement them after a dispensary or other marijuana-related business already has opened.

“I don’t want to see it arise like the massage parlors,” Brown said. “I have no problem with doing it correctly, but I don’t want to see someone get set up and grandfathered in (after any regulations are passed) … I think there should be a responsible approach to this where you’re not inundated. I wish there were regulations for dollar stores so we didn’t have those on every corner.

“There are so many things we can look back on and wish they were done differently. If we had a law for abandoned industrial buildings, we might not have the catastrophe at Delphi that we have today.”

The ordinance will have its third reading at council’s next meeting Nov. 9, but some of Brown’s colleagues indicated it might be too soon for council to act. The Ohio Department of Commerce has until May 6, 2017, to establish the procedures for licensing cultivators.

Alford Novak, D-2nd Ward, said he called the state attorney general’s office and commerce department after the legislation first was introduced and believes action is premature.

“Limits where it can be located in terms of schools and churches, those are going to have to come from the state,” Novak said. “Let’s wait until Columbus speaks. I see John’s concern, but I think we need to slow up a little bit.”

Eddie Colbert, D-at large, said, “At first glance I would question why we would preemptively want to do something like this and discourage any kind of legal business,” but he is withholding judgment until after Brown makes his case to council.

Cheryl Saffold, D-6th Ward, also said she needed more information.

“Right now, we don’t know where the dispensaries are going to be located,” she said.

Other local governments already have weighed in since medical marijuana became legal in the state on Sept. 8. Trumbull County commissioners voted unanimously in September not to change its current employee drug and alcohol policy, which prohibits the use of marijuana in any form, with or without a valid prescription.

In July, Weathersfield trustees banned growing, processing and selling of medical marijuana in the township.