When Grandview Heights City Council voted 4-3 on April 2 to prohibit the operation of medical-marijuana dispensaries in the city, some on council indicated they believed a referendum effort would occur no matter the council's decision.

That has turned out to be the case.

Grandview resident Michelle Kozak and her husband, Terry Eisele, are leading an effort to collect signatures to place a referendum on the November ballot to overturn the ban.

Kozak said she met with two attorneys earlier this month and then submitted a letter to city finance director Bob Dvoraczky to file a referendum petition.

She, her husband and a friend started collecting signatures April 12, Kozak said.

As of April 15, they have collected about 50 signatures, she said.

"In the last gubernatorial election in 2014, there were 2,750 Grandview residents who voted, so we'll need 10 percent of that number, or 275 valid signatures of Grandview residents who are registered voters," Kozak said. "We'll be looking to get a bit more than that in case some of the people who sign end up not being registered voters or there's something else that makes their signature invalid."

The petition will need to be filed by May 2, or within 30 days after council's vote.

Residents should have a say in the issue, Kozak said.

"I initiated this process because I had the sense from many people I spoke with that they would support having dispensaries in Grandview, and I wanted to give the public a chance to vote on it," she said.

Kozak said she has read about the issue and has reviewed the state's regulations regarding dispensaries.

"I think there are a lot of misconceptions people who are opposed to them have about what a medical-marijuana dispensary actually is," Kozak said. "People hear the word 'marijuana' and it creates a preconceived image.

"As one resident said at one of the council meetings, they are not 'drug houses.'"

The ordinance passed by council refers to "retail sales" of marijuana, which is not what would happen at a medical marijuana dispensary, Kozak said.

"People don't just walk off the street into the building and buy marijuana," she said.

According to the regulations listed on the state's medicalmarijuana.ohio.gov website, only qualified and registered patients over the age of 18 and caregivers would be permitted to enter a dispensary. In addition, all employees would have to be trained in the dispensing of medical marijuana, Kozak said.

"The state has set up very specific regulations for how a dispensary should operate," she said. "It's something that should be allowed in Grandview."

While the city's charter only allows 30 days to collect signatures for a potential referendum to overturn a decision by City Council, Kozak said she is confident they will meet the threshold.

"We'll be getting started collecting signatures, going to people's houses in the next week, and based on what I've heard from talking to people, I think there's more than enough support to get this on the ballot," she said.

Councilwoman Emily Keeler, who sponsored the legislation to prohibit dispensaries in the city, said she isn't surprised that a referendum challenge may be put on the ballot.

"There's passionate views on both sides and if a majority of the voters want to take action to overturn our decision, that's OK. That's why we have the system of government that we do," she said. "We passed it as a non-emergency measure so that residents could pursue a referendum if they wanted."

The reason she sponsored the legislation was to "give us time to wait and see" what additional research regarding the impact of legal medical marijuana dispensaries reveals, Keeler said.

Ohio's law is written differently from other states that have permitted the distribution of medical marijuana, she said.

"Plus, marijuana is still against federal law," Keeler said. "I just think the space that is available in our city might be more appropriately used for other purposes."



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