Pickerington City Council is debating the pros and cons of an outright ban of medical marijuana businesses inside the city limits.
Council's Finance Committee discussed the issue Sept. 20 regarding potential applicants who may seek a permit to build a medical marijuana dispensary in Pickerington.
Ohio's medical marijuana law, which was signed into law by Gov. John Kasich and took effect in September 2016, requires dispensaries to be operational by Sept. 8, 2018.
Ohio's law will ultimately allow 24 cultivators, 40 processors that can make marijuana oils, tinctures and edibles, and 60 dispensaries throughout the state.
City Councilman Tony Barletta, who said he is against a ban, proposed the city deal with the issue from a zoning approach "similar to how we handle adult entertainment. The least restrictive locations relative to churches and schools."
Barletta said medical marijuana has beneficial properties when used as a therapeutic tool for opiate addicts and as "appetite therapy for people effected by cancer surgery."
He said to ban such an effective drug in the city would simply deny Pickerington residents access to a medicine that has proven to be both efficacious and safe.
"All we'll be doing is making our people drive further to get it," said Barletta.
Pickerington City Councilman Mike Sabatino said banning medical marijuana in Pickerington won't preclude people from having access to the medicine.
"I really believe if someone with a need for it (has) to drive an extra five miles to go get it, they would get it," he said.
Sabatino said unless it was evident four of the seven council members would vote in favor of a dispensary then the city should start the legislative process to enact a ban.
City Councilwoman Melissa Wilde sided with Barletta in touting medical marijuana's efficacy in treating pain.
"We do have an opioid problem. I've never seen an overdose from medical cannabis," said Wilde.
She said there are numerous pharmacies in the city that currently sell legal drugs so medical marijuana shouldn't be singled out.
City Council President Jeff Fix stated the votes are already present in council to support the ban. Council members Jerry Dailey and Tricia Sanders joined both Fix and Sabatino in proclaiming they would vote for a ban of all medical marijuana dispensaries in the city.
"We don't want to sell it in Pickerington," said Fix.
City Councilwoman Christie Hammond said she needed to conduct more research on the subject before she could say how she would vote.
Sabatino said local law enforcement officials support a ban as well.
"The (Pickerington) Police Department is 100 percent in favor of a ban because it's not a business that can use a banking system," he said.
Banks are reticent to service the medical marijuana industry because Ohio's law is in conflict with federal regulations.
Fix said a draft legislation for a possible ban will have to go through City Council's Safety Committee in the future and then on to City Council for a vote.
Currently a number of other central Ohio municipalities have enacted bans on medical marijuana businesses, including Lancaster, Dublin, Worthington and Canal Winchester.