Shortly after their initial approval of medical marijuana trade in their community, Delta Village Council members appeared to bend to the will of unhappy residents and voted to add a possible moratorium to the mix.
At a sometimes raucous standing-room-only Council meeting held Monday, the members added a last-minute motion to the agenda that authorized Village Law Director Keith Heban to draft a proposed one-year moratorium in Delta on state-sanctioned medical marijuana businesses. The motion came after residents attending Monday’s meeting seemed to refuse to accept first-reading approval of the ordinance allowing for medical marijuana permits, licenses, and cultivation/processing within the village.
As the meeting drew to a close angry residents shouted for a moratorium against a medical marijuana trade in the village, demanding Council members explain the reasoning behind their decision to initially pass the ordinance; Councilor Lynn Frank had cast the lone dissenting vote. A provision to pass the ordinance on emergency was removed after residents angrily accused Council members of trying to rush the legislation through without benefit of public opinion.
Frank reminded those in attendance that only one side of the argument seemed to be represented at the meeting. She said for every two or three people against the medical marijuana ordinance there are likely two or three more in the community who support it.
Following continued jeers and angry comments by residents, Frank asked Heban a series of questions regarding how a proposed moratorium would proceed, and if Council members could reverse it at a later date. When Heban said it could be reversed at Council’s direction, Frank initiated a motion to include a moratorium vote at the next Council meeting.
Councilor Tony Dawson was the lone dissenting vote for that motion. He explained to the gathering that he has ill friends who have benefited from medical marijuana.
Should a moratorium pass three consecutive votes, the original ordinance permitting medical marijuana trade in the village would be struck down.
The meeting began with Heban explaining that Ohio allowed for medical marijuana in 2016 with permits for growing, manufacturing and dispensing. At that time, and in the following year, Council passed moratoriums on issuing permits because the rules on them had not yet been finalized.
Heban said permits were issued by the state during the last one-year village moratorium. “So there was no further action to be taken because there could be no permits issued,” he stated.
But now the state plans to reopen permit applications in early November, and the village has received inquiries from two parties about opening dispensaries in the village, Heban reported.
“If they meet our zoning classification, we can’t do anything because the (second village) moratorium has since passed,” he said. Subsequently, the village prepared legislation addressing the issue and allowing for village administrators to regulate what type of permits are granted and where medical marijuana business will be permitted in the village.
“But right now, without any legislation, these dispensaries are like a Walgreens…so if it meets with our zoning classification we can’t prevent it. It goes in,” he told those attending the meeting. He added the ordinance can be changed in the future if necessary.
Those facts didn’t placate a number of residents who approached a podium one by one to offer brief comments.
Dr. Michael Mattin, Pike-Delta-York school board president and a father of four, said as an emergency room physician he’s witnessed the ravages of drug abuse.
“It feels like, if we want to make a decision this big, we have all the facts,” he said. “Mentally, our kids are struggling. Drug use is at a high level…It’s at epidemic proportions. And I’m worried about little things like these big decisions here and the impact on our children…That’s all I ask you to think about.”
Dr. Mattin suggested Council delay votes on the medical marijuana ordinance for two weeks to consider its ramifications. “And if you don’t want dispensaries in our town, please rewrite it to say that,” he added to a round of applause.
Resident Tracy Ruple asked Council members to represent the community’s parents. “We don’t want (medical marijuana) in our community. I don’t care how much money it will generate. It’s not the money we want to build our community on,” she said.
People won’t move to Delta if it’s represented by dispensaries, Ruple said. “It’s not going to bring in families we want to bring into this community. We want a great community, and that is not through medical marijuana…It’s not what we want to build on.”
Beth Thomas, director of Fulton County’s Healthy Choices Caring Communities, an anti-drug coalition, said it’s apparent medical marijuana is a complicated issue, and asked Council members to give it due diligence. She said every other community and village in the county has passed an ordinance or moratorium against the issue.
“What have they recognized that you have not?” she said.
P-D-Y Superintendent Ted Haselman, who earlier sent a notice to the school district’s parents urging them to contact Council members about the issue, asked why the council is opening a window on medical marijuana rather than just rejecting it.
“On behalf of the children of Pike-Delta-York, that is what I urge you to consider this evening or at the next meeting,” he said.
The lone proponent of the medical marijuana ordinance at the meeting, resident Jesus Flores, who has four children in the P-D-Y school district, said those in attendance were missing the point.
“It’s a lot of money we’re missing out on, that would go to a lot of things in this town,” he said. “You guys don’t want to say it’s about money…I ask you to think about that, please.”
Legislation proposing a moratorium will be introduced at Council’s Nov. 1 meeting.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.