Huber Heights makes medical marijuana ban permanent

By Dave Lindeman - For the Courier

HUBER HEIGHTS — Huber Heights City Council closed the door on medical marijuana Monday night – but it appears that it will not be the end of the conversation.

At issue Monday was a resolution to replace a 6-month moratorium on medical cannabis growth and sales in the city with a total ban on cultivators, processors and retail dispensaries.

It took a tie-breaking vote by Mayor Jeff Gore to approve the ban, but not before a long debate and a proposal by a local medical marijuana cultivator that could still change the game.

Gore voted for the ban after Seth Morgan, Mark Campbell, Ed Lyons and Nancy Byrge voted for it and Glenn Otto, Andy Hill, Janell Smith and Richard Shaw voted against it.

But it likely won’t be the end of the discussion.

Jason Wilson of the Paragon Development Group addressed council before the vote. Wilson holds a license from the state to operate a Level 2 marijuana cultivation facility in Huber Heights. He says the state approval gives him the right to operate in the city, but on Monday he offered council a deal.

Wilson told council he has a deadline to get his facility up and running and that his state license is tied to the approved address. He asked council to allow him to get the facility ready to operate without actually producing any marijuana. Once the facility is approved by the state, he would then be allowed by the state to move his operation to another site outside the city limits.

Wilson’s offer followed comments by a number of people who spoke for medical marijuana and council members who took both sides.

Consultant Tim Johnson, Robert Kowalski of Veterans to End the Stigma, multiple sclerosis patient Lorrie Callahan and others spoke in favor of allowing medical marijuana to be produced in the city.

Johnson said that approving the ban would show that council is “anti-small business, anti -veteran and anti-patient access to health care.” Kowalksi credited medical marijuana with saving his life and Callahan told how it has helped her handle the pain from her disease.

Council members also expressed their opinion. When Smith asked why a ban was necessary now as opposed to simply extending a moratorium, Morgan had an answer.

“I can say you can give this vote tomorrow, six months from now, 12 months from now, 24 months from now, and it will always be a ban for me,” he said. “I think we’re just holding out a conversation that needs to end.”

Byrge also gave her reasons for the ban.

“The medical marijuana issue was, and still is, not about whether it’s medically beneficial,” she said. “This is about the lack of concrete evidence that medical marijuana is in the best economic or social interest of our city.”

Otto had a different view.

“We can either accept this industry with open arms or we can keep a closed-minded approach,” he said, adding that banning medical marijuana production “for the most part it’s a mindset that’s stuck in the past.”

Shaw, a long-time advocate of bringing medical marijuana to the city, also spoke out against the ban.

“My apologies to the individuals and businesses affected who could really use medical cannabis in this city,” he said. “As some would say, you can still get it, you just have to spend your money outside of Huber Heights.”

Gore said he was surprised the vote was a tie, but said he knew how he felt in the event of a tie and did not hesitate to cast the deciding vote.

When asked after the meeting about what comes next, Wilson said he has spent the past two days talking to state legislators and the state health department and he believes there are grounds for a “slam-dunk” lawsuit against the city. But, he said, he hoped he could still work with the city for a solution and already has a meeting scheduled with the city law director. He said he does have a new location for his facility that is not in Huber Heights but is in the area.

But at least for now, the door is shut and will remain that way unless council returns to the issue some time in the future.

By Dave Lindeman

For the Courier

Reach Dave Lindeman at (937) 684-8983 or on Twitter @HH_Courier.

Reach Dave Lindeman at (937) 684-8983 or on Twitter @HH_Courier.