By MAX FILBY
Findlay Mayor Lydia Mihalik is asking City Council to ban the growing, processing and sale of medical marijuana in the city.
House Bill 523, which legalizes medical marijuana in Ohio, was signed by Gov. John Kasich earlier this summer and goes into effect Thursday.
State regulations on growing, selling and taxing medical marijuana may be years away, however.
Council members will consider Mihalik’s request at a 7:30 p.m. council meeting today.
In a letter to council, Mihalik asked for council to suspend its rules so it can hurry passage of legislation prohibiting the cultivation, processing and sale of marijuana in Findlay.
If council passes the ordinance today, Mihalik will sign the ban into law before medical marijuana becomes legal in Ohio.
House Bill 523 allows cities to limit or completely prohibit medical marijuana businesses. Findlay’s law would indefinitely ban medical marijuana operations.
Other cities, such as Piqua, a little more than an hour south of Findlay, and Lakewood, two hours northeast, have put six-month moratoriums in place.
State law already prevents dispensaries from opening within 500 feet of a school, library, church, public playground or park.
The local ordinance would change Findlay’s zoning code, essentially preventing medical marijuana dispensaries from locating on any city land.
Matt Cordonnier, director of the Hancock Regional Planning Commission, also submitted a letter to council calling for the prohibition of medical marijuana businesses through Findlay’s zoning code.
Over the next year, a state board will develop regulations for medical marijuana, according to House Bill 523.
Those regulations will dictate how the drug can be advertised, the number of dispensaries and marijuana cultivators allowed, and how it will be taxed. A training process will also be established for doctors so they can prescribe it properly.
Local officials have complained about the time lag between when medical marijuana becomes legal and when regulations will be implemented, apparently in 2018.
“Only then will we truly know the extent to which medical marijuana will be regulated,” Mihalik said in her letter to council. “And, only then will we be able to make a truly informed decision whether to permit medical marijuana in some form or the other.”
Mihalik’s call to ban medical marijuana businesses in the city comes a week after local officials held multiple meetings about the impact of pot on the community.
The Hancock County Board of Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services and the Findlay-Hancock County Chamber of Commerce hosted two meetings on Aug. 30.
Officials addressed how the marijuana law affects businesses and employees. Companies may continue to enforce drug policies, even if an employee has a medical marijuana card, officials said at the meetings.
Zach Thomas, director of education for ADAMHS, said the lack of regulation will create a “gray area” for whether marijuana users can be prosecuted.