Rather than a permanent ban, Upper Arlington officials have opted for another moratorium on medical-marijuana dispensaries and other cultivation and processing businesses.

Upper Arlington City Council voted unanimously March 9 to approve a fourth moratorium on marijuana cultivation, processing and retail-dispensing businesses in the city.

The latest move bans those businesses through Dec. 6, 2021. It comes after council previously had approved three one-year moratoriums, the most recent of which being set to expire April 7.

Because council took emergency action on the new moratorium, it went into effect immediately.

“It’s that we on council consider that this is an important issue to the community,” said council member John Kulewicz, who offered the latest moratorium as an alternative to a permanent ban council had debated. “The state of Ohio strictly regulates dispensary licenses, (and) there are no dispensary licenses available to be given at the moment.

“At the same time, there’s an increased likelihood that a recreational-marijuana issue will be on the ballot this fall. If that passes, it would, No. 1, give us some indication what the authentic community sentiment behind the issue is, but more significantly for the vote that we would need to take, it could have ramifications for medical-marijuana distribution.”

Kulewicz said that by setting a Dec. 6, 2021, expiration date for the new moratorium, it will give city officials enough time to “let the dust settle to see what the regulatory implications within the state of Ohio are going to be before council moves into the field.”

On Feb. 3, the Upper Arlington Board of Zoning and Planning recommended that council allow medical-marijuana dispensaries in its B-2 zoning areas, which currently are present near Henderson Road and Northwest Boulevard.

Council members, however, opted instead to debate a citywide ban, an approach that’s been taken in the nearby cities of Dublin, Grove City, New Albany, Powell, Westerville and Worthington.

During a Feb. 24 meeting in which council held the first reading of legislation for a citywide ban, three residents spoke in favor of a ban and three spoke in opposition.

At the March 9 meeting, six spoke, but all were opposed to allowing medical-marijuana cultivation, retail processing and dispensaries to operate in the city, with most maintaining the move would normalize marijuana use and send a poor message to local youths.

“Allowing marijuana growing, processing or dispensing in UA would send a very bad message,” said Mickie Lockwood, who said she was a 33-year Upper Arlington resident. “In spite of what proponents say, marijuana is dangerous … and using it should not be encouraged. The city should not do anything that makes marijuana easier to obtain or to appear acceptable.”

During a Feb. 24 council conference session, City Manager Steve Schoeny and council members Jim Lynch and Brian Close pointed out that Upper Arlington isn't a candidate for medical-marijuana cultivation, processing or dispensary businesses anytime soon. Although 49 such operations are in Ohio, according to the Ohio Marijuana Control Program, the state has no plans to extend additional licenses.

Currently, dispensaries in Franklin County operate at 656 Grandview Ave. in Grandview and at 1243 N. Cassady Ave., 115 Vine St. and 1361 Georgesville Road in Columbus.

The fifth location, proposed at 2950 N. High St. in Clintonville, has yet to obtain its certificate of operation. However, a settlement with the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy is expected to allow Harvest of Ohio to open this dispensary once inspections are completed.

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