More than two years after Ohio legalized medical marijuana and growers and dispensaries throughout the state move closer to offering THC products to recommended patients, Upper Arlington officials remain opposed to allowing related businesses to operate locally.
On Oct. 8, Upper Arlington City Council unanimously passed its third 12-month moratorium on marijuana-related businesses since October 2016.
The latest ordinance, which was passed by emergency vote and became effective immediately, mirrors the city's previous two bans.
It states Upper Arlington's city charter and the Ohio Constitution give City Council the power to enact "planning, zoning and business regulation laws that further the health, safety, welfare, comfort and peace of its citizens, including restricting, prohibiting and/or regulating certain businesses."
Council President Kip Greenhill said during a council conference session Sept. 17 that's the crux of the city's ongoing opposition to regulated medical-marijuana operations.
"We did it with the idea these could have a negative economic impact on property -- either personal property, houses, or even businesses," Greenhill said. "But since the medical marijuana has not gone into place yet, we don't have that economic data to inform us."
Upper Arlington's latest ban states the city has "determined it to be in the best interest of the community health, safety and welfare" to extend the moratorium another 12 months, giving officials more time to analyze the state's regulations on medical marijuana.
A corresponding Sept. 17 staff report from City Attorney Jeanine Hummer said extending the moratorium won't preclude residents who receive doctor recommendations for medical marijuana from getting it.
"This in no way affects the use of medical marijuana, provided state law on usage is followed," Hummer said. "In the meantime, the regulations already adopted will be analyzed and the city will also conduct a survey of residents concerning this topic. Then an informed, lasting decision can be made based upon all relevant information."
Ohio's road to medical marijuana came on the heels of an unsuccessful ballot initiative in November 2015 that would have legalized the sale and use of pot throughout the state.
That measure, State Issue 3, would have resulted in a constitutional amendment and limited commercial marijuana growing to 10 investment groups. It also would have legalized both recreational use of pot by anyone age 21 or older and medicinal use by those of any age with a diagnosed medical condition.
After Issue 3 was defeated by a nearly 2-to-1 ratio, state lawmakers took up discussions about legalizing medical marijuana. That resulted in House Bill 523, which was passed by the Ohio General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. John Kasich in June 2016.
Medical marijuana became legal in Ohio Sept. 9, 2016.
There are no prescriptions given, since marijuana remains banned by the federal government and isn't a regulated drug, but the Ohio Department of Commerce says about 300 doctors in Ohio have been certified to recommend marijuana to patients.
Right now, there are 21 conditions that qualify for medical marijuana, including AIDS, glaucoma, chronic pain, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, seizures and other diagnosed ailments. That's according to the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control program, which is governed by the Ohio Department of Commerce, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy and the Ohio Medical Board.
Those who have received recommendations from certified Ohio doctors are permitted to legally seek medical marijuana from states that allow it to be legally dispensed and that have reciprocity agreements with Ohio.
In Ohio, the Department of Commerce has awarded 13 level-1 cultivation licenses (up to 25,000 square feet), and 13 level-2 licenses (up to 3,000 square feet), but just 10 of the licensees received the green light to start growing.
The state's first level-1 grower, Buckeye Relief near Cleveland, hopes to harvest its first plants in December, but although some of the 56 state-approved dispensaries are expected to be open when the first products arrive later this year, there has been trouble with locations.
"A number of them are having more zoning issues than anticipated," said Steven Schierholt, executive director of the Ohio Board of Pharmacy, which oversees the medical marijuana dispensaries.
In central Ohio, Grandview Heights banned marijuana dispensaries, but its residents will vote next month on a referendum to lift that ban.
Greenhill said Upper Arlington's latest moratorium will allow the city more time to sift through what's best for the community as the smoke clears on the implementation of medical marijuana operations and dispensaries in the Buckeye State.
"This proposal is coming forward to extend (the moratorium) another year, and we'll have more economic data to make a decision whether this is a ban we want to put in permanently or not," he said.
Out of the 56 dispensaries approved in Ohio, according to the Ohio Board of Pharmacy, five are located in Franklin County, including Greenleaf Apothecaries, 111 Vine St. across from the North Market in Columbus, and Harvest of Ohio, 2950 N. High St. in Clintonville.
Licking County also has been approved for three, all in Newark, and Fairfield County received one dispensary, located in Carroll, near Lancaster.
Councilman Jim Lynch ultimately supported Upper Arlington's latest moratorium, but pointed out during the Sept. 17 conference session he didn't expect medical marijuana operations to expand anywhere in the state in the near future.
"I think it's highly, highly, highly unlikely that we're going to see any new permits issued for the next several years," Lynch said. "That ship has kind of sailed.
"The permits have already been issued. I think the better approach would be to revisit this in a year or two years, but I think this is kind of a closed case."
Greenhill countered by saying the new moratorium gives Upper Arlington coverage if the state would decide to allow more operations.
Columbus Dispatch reporters JD Malone and Owen Daugherty contributed to this story.