A year after they first discussed the issue, Grandview Heights City Council members continue to debate whether to ban medical-marijuana operations within city limits.
Council's planning and administration committee has met twice to discuss a proposed ordinance that would prohibit the cultivation, processing and retail dispensing of medical marijuana. Another committee meeting was scheduled to be held Nov. 20 prior to the regular council meeting.
Ohio's medical-marijuana law, which took effect in September 2016, requires dispensaries to be operating by Sept. 8, 2018.
The state will allow 60 dispensaries to be located throughout Ohio, with five earmarked for Franklin County.
An individual diagnosed with one of 20 qualifying medical conditions would, on the recommendation of a physician, be able to apply to the state to receive an identification card that would allow them to obtain, possess and use medical marijuana for treatment.
Most central Ohio suburbs -- including Westerville, Dublin and Upper Arlington -- have placed moratoriums on or outright banned dispensaries from operating within their limits.
Grandview enacted two six-month moratoriums on medical-marijuana operations in the city -- the first coming in November 2016 -- while the state continued to work on finalizing regulations.
There is a consensus among council committees and council as a whole about not allowing medical-marijuana cultivation or processing operations in the city, said Chris Smith, planning and administration committee chairman.
"There's no doubt that no one wants to see those type of facilities in Grandview," he said.
"The question is, do we want to put an outright ban on dispensaries in our community?" he said. "We want to be careful that we don't put too much of a hardship on people who feel that they can benefit from using medical marijuana. At the same time, it's still a Schedule 1 drug at the federal level."
Councilman Steve Reynolds said he has proposed that council look at the cultivation/processing and dispensary issues separately.
"I don't think trying to operate a cultivation or processing business would make sense in Grandview," he said. "I don't think it would make economic sense for an operator."
A dispensary may not even be workable in Grandview, but the city shouldn't put a total ban on that service operating in the city, Reynolds said.
"I'm lucky -- I've had good health -- but I know enough people who have suffered pain, nausea or loss of appetite who, at least depending on how much you believe the science that is behind the concept of medical marijuana, might be helped, even if it was with a placebo," Reynolds said.
Mayor Ray DeGraw sponsored the ordinance to ban all medical-marijuana operations.
"I still stand behind the legislation and think it should be adopted," he said. "My reading is that the majority of people in this community don't want (a medical-marijuana business) in the community.
"There are still too many unknowns about marijuana and the impact it may have on your brain," he said.
Allowing marijuana to be sold in Grandview, even if just for medical use, would send the wrong message to children in the community, DeGraw said.
"It's still an illegal drug federally, and there's still a lot we're learning about marijuana," he said. "We still don't have all the information to show whether there are actual medical benefits from marijuana."
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not recognized or approved the marijuana plant as medicine, but Reynolds said many people believe their conditions or symptoms are improved through the use of marijuana.
"Can you compare the potential negative effects of marijuana versus the negative effects of opioids?" he asked.
DeGraw noted the state's regulations call for the locations of dispensaries to be spread out so that no Ohioan will be more than 20 miles away from a facility.
For some people, undergoing chemotherapy or in advanced stages of an illness, even a 20-mile drive to a dispensary might be too burdensome, Reynolds said.
One possible compromise would be to allow dispensaries by adopting a "narrowly tailored zoning area" for such operations, Smith said.
"Perhaps we could allow a dispensary as long as it is not within a certain distance of a school or park," he said.