The Van Wert County Courthouse

Tuesday, Jun. 18, 2024

Council close to lifting dispensary ban

SCOTT TRUXELL/independent editor

It was standing room only at Monday night’s Van Wert City Council meeting and most of the attendees were there to discuss marijuana dispensaries in the city limits.

After nearly an hour of comments from the public, council members voted 5-1 in favor of lifting the city’s ban on medical marijuana dispensaries, with Councilwoman At-Large Judy Bowers voting against it. At-Large Councilwoman Jana Ringwald was absent from the meeting. It was the second of three readings/votes. A third and final vote is scheduled to take place on June 24 and if has at least four votes in favor, the ban will be rescinded, meaning an eligible business could apply for a license to sell medical marijuana in Van Wert. That could open the door for the dispensary to apply for a license to sell recreational marijuana, which became legal last November.

Robert Wilson shares his thoughts on a medical marijuana dispensary. Scott Truxell/VW independent

Approximately 30 people showed up for Monday’s meeting and of the nine who spoke, seven were against a medical or recreational marijuana dispensary, one was for it and another remained neutral, but pointed out marijuana is now legal in Ohio. The crowd was different than one during an April council meeting, when approximately 20 people showed up and spoke in favor of allowing a medical marijuana dispensary.

“They tell us marijuana is the gateway drug to more serious drugs, so why do we give our kids a pathway to become involved with cocaine and fentanyl?” one resident said Monday night. “We don’t need to start our youth off going that road to drug addiction, we need to do everything we can to stop it.”

While several others spoke against a dispensary, Robert Wilson, who manages Vape and Smoke on Towne Center Blvd. said he’s a 38-year cancer survivor who has relied on medical marijuana, which has allowed him to stay clear of opioids. His store plans to apply to the state to become a medical marijuana dispensary if the ban is lifted.

“We don’t want to put it downtown, we don’t want to put it in your churches, we don’t want to put it in your parks,” Wilson said. “We have a place out at the end of town, safe away from anybody. Kids shouldn’t be a problem – if parents are maintaining their kids, it should not be a problem. It’s 21 or older – that’s how it has to be – you have to show an ID when you walk in, there is no ifs ands or buts about it, it’s state regulations.”

As he did at the previous meeting, city resident Mark Davis noted that regardless if there’s a dispensary in town, residents are legally allowed to grow up to six marijuana plants in their own homes.

Before the vote, Councilman At-Large Jeff Kallas said not having a medical marijuana dispensary is not going to solve the drug problem in Van Wert. He had also floated the idea of putting the issue before the voters, but it’s not known if that’s a legal option. Law Director John Hatcher said he’ll research the issue and report back at the next meeting.

Third Ward Councilwoman Julie Moore also shared her thoughts.

“It is your choice on what you want to put in your body,” she said. “You can choose a prescription drug and if that doesn’t help, if medical marijuana helps, who are we to say you don’t get that option?”

The topic of allowing a recreational marijuana dispensary may be one that is discussed in the future. Law Director John Hatcher confirmed that if council wants to ban such a facility, it will need to pass legislation to that effect.

In other business, council members heard the first reading of an ordinance that establishes 500 square feet as the minimum for dwellings and an ordinance for a tax abatement for an expansion at Alliance Automation.  Check Wednesday’s News page for more details on both ordinances and more. 

POSTED: 06/11/24 at 3:34 am. FILED UNDER: News