The Van Wert County Courthouse

Saturday, May. 25, 2024

Council ready to lift dispensary ban

SCOTT TRUXELL/independent editor

Van Wert City Council did an abrupt about-face on medical marijuana Monday night.

After a plea from Fourth Ward Councilman Bill Marshall, council members voted unanimously, 7-0, to prepare legislation to rescind the city’s ban on medical marijuana dispensaries. After medical marijuana became legal in Ohio in 2016, city council voted to ban dispensaries within the city limits.

Fourth Ward Councilman Bill Marshall spoke of rescinding a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries, while City Auditor Erika Blackmore and other council members listen. Scott Truxell/VW independent

The subject of medical marijuana dispensaries was discussed during a special council meeting last month, with the majority of people in attendance speaking in favor of allowing them within the city limits. Many spoke of having to drive to Wapakoneta or other nearby places, or to Michigan to purchase medical marijuana. During that meeting, Robert Wilson, who manages Vape and Smoke on Towne Center Blvd. said he represents two men who want to open a marijuana dispensary in the Van Wert area.

“They are established already in Michigan, Illinois and New York and they know the laws, they’re waiting for everything to roll out just like we all are to see what laws Ohio is going to put into place,” Wilson said at the previous meeting.

“We can’t kick the can down the road,” Marshall stated during Monday night’s meeting. “I think we have to listen to our constituents – we make our decision based on the feeling of our constituents.”

The discussion from last month’s meeting seemed to spur Marshall and other council members, who wasted no time voting to move in that direction. An ordinance is expected to be formally introduced at the next meeting. Marshall also said a decision would need to be made on where a dispensary or dispensaries would be allowed to set up shop in the city limits.

B-3 was suggested, which is defined by city ordinance as “…areas along major highways or thoroughfares which provide sales and services oriented to highway travelers; or general businesses including sale of and services for, motor vehicles, farm machinery, building materials, and the like.” It also includes certain shopping center and shopping plaza areas. Council members also agreed to that suggestion.

The decision to allow a medical marijuana dispensary could pave the way for recreational marijuana sales in Van Wert, as the state is said to be ready to give preference and/or licenses to existing medical marijuana dispensaries. The state will likely issue 2,000 licenses for recreational marijuana dispensaries statewide, including ones already licensed as medical marijuana providers.

The timeline of a medical marijuana dispensary possibly opening in Van Wert is unknown.

In a somewhat related move, Van Wert City Council heard the third and final reading of an ordinance banning consumption of marijuana on certain city-owned properties. The ordinance reads in part “…the City of Van Wert shall not allow the consumption of marijuana in all of its forms (marijuana, THC and cannabis products) on the following city properties: Smiley Park, Jubilee Park, Franklin Park, Fountain Park, Rotary Park, Van Wert Reservoir, all city owned buildings, Van Wert Municipal Court and all municipal parking lots.” The vote to approve the legislation was unanimous.

The law could become a moot point, as the Ohio legislature could still set a law that would limit all marijuana consumption to homes or private property, which would override any local law. Michigan is one state that has such a law.

By a 57-43 percent margin, Ohio voters approved recreational marijuana during the November, 2023 general election.

POSTED: 05/14/24 at 3:45 am. FILED UNDER: News