The Madison County Commissioners are taking the cautious route to medical marijuana zoning, after receiving a query from a potential cultivator.
County Prosecutor Steve Pronai wanted to bring to the attention of the commissioners that they may need to update the zoning laws to account for medical marijuana.
The county’s zoning department recently received an application for an indoor cultivation facility off of U.S. Route 42.
“He’s just growing, packaging it and shipping it out,” said David Hughes, director of zoning.
The applicant said the zoning department needs to sign off on the sheet, which is due by June 15. He plans to take the applicant to board of zoning appeals on June 5 to determine what the land use is.
However, it isn’t certain where medical marijuana falls under in local law.
“We have nothing in the code,” said Hughes. “I’m in the predicament in that I have to offer something to this guy.”
Pronai said that it was unlikely this particular applicant would get one of the few licenses available.
“A guy like this, the chance of him getting a permit is like zero,” he said. “It’s going to go to some big manufacturer that have the cash to really do everything you need to do with the security.”
After consulting with other prosecutors, he thinks it falls under commercial zoning.
During the meeting Monday, County Administrator Rob Slane reviewed part of Ohio law, which he read as saying zoning authority for location and jurisdiction of medical marijuana facilities was entirely in the control of townships and municipalities. Counties had no authority.
Hughes said he thought the statute addressed areas with zoning systems that had zoning authorities in each township. In Madison County, the primary zoning authority outside of municipalities is the county.
Commissioner Mark Forrest said the commissioners would make a decision next week Tuesday, when they meet again due to the Memorial Day holiday.
In the meantime, Pronai will review the law and see how far the commissioners can regulate zoning, if at all.
In terms of support for how far regulating the virgin industry in Ohio, the commissioners in attendance had some differences.
Commissioner David Hunter said he didn’t want it in the county, citing concerns of theft and other crime.
“To be honest I’m afraid of this thing,” said Hunter. “To me, it’s just going to cause problems down the road until this gets…..”
Forrest was a bit more open, but wanted to potentially limit how much was being grown.
“I have no problem with allowing it as it was permitted by state law,” he said. “It’s not on us to dictate what state law is. However, I don’t want Madison County to be the grow capital or the world. So if it’s possible, I’d like to limit the number of growers.
State lawmakers passed a bill last May to legalize medical marijuana for those with a doctor’s referral. Twenty-one health conditions are eligible for the referral, including cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease, multiple sclerosis and chronic pain.
The Ohio Board of Pharmacy has recommended that 40 dispensaries be scattered around the state to sell medical marijuana to qualifying patients. That number is far fewer than the 1,150 dispensaries proposed in a medical marijuana ballot issue defeated by Ohio voters in 2015.
Ohioans for Medical Marijuana estimate there will be 188,000 medical marijuana patients in Ohio — which comes out to about 4,700 patients per dispensary.
Before the permits began to be approved, local governments could pass laws that ban the dispensaries from being opened.
In Madison County, Plain City and West Jefferson both voted to ban dispensaries from opening up.
Maximilian Kwiatkowski can be reached at 740-852-1616, ext. 1617 or on Twitter @MSFKwiat.