In a split vote Tuesday, Findlay City Council tabled legislation which would ban dispensing, cultivating or processing medical marijuana within city limits.
Questions about whether to set a time limit on the ban, and zoning law changes needed to enforce it, stalled the new rule.
Fourth Ward Councilman Tom Klein continued to push for a sunset provision for the legislation, which would force council to reconsider the ban within a given time. However, others said revisiting the rule would be council’s prerogative at any point.
“If it’s that important to you, then mark it on your calendar,” said Grant Russel, councilman at-large.
While the state Legislature has legalized the use of medical marijuana, Ohio has just begun to draft the rules that will govern its sale.
On Tuesday, Holly Frische, 1st Ward councilwoman, said the city is most concerned about allowing any of the activity, without seeing the state rules first. Council seemed to agree that it could take months, even years, for state officials to finish that work.
The ordinance, which was on its final reading, was tabled by a 5-to-5 vote, with Council President Jim Slough breaking the tie and voting in favor of tabling it.
Councilmen voting in favor of tabling the ban included: Klein; John Harrington, 5th Ward; Jim Niemeyer, 6th Ward; Tim Watson, 7th Ward; and Jeff Wobser, at-large.
Law Director Don Rasmussen was asked to rewrite the legislation to require council to reconsider the ban once the state sets the rules.
Public hearings must also be held before council can change the city’s zoning law to reflect the same prohibitions. Rasmussen said including the ban in city zoning may help it withstand any legal challenges.
The ban would make it a first-degree misdemeanor to dispense, cultivate or process medical marijuana in the city, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Violating the city’s zoning law could also carry daily fines.
Rasmussen said eventually, the city may want to allow certain activities in specific areas, and addressing medical marijuana in the zoning code will allow council that reach.
He also cautioned council against setting an arbitrary time line on the ban, out of concern that council “could lose track of it” and the ban could expire without any further action.
Klein has been asking for an 18-month limit on the ban.
Harrington, who discouraged council from rushing the legislation through, said the city has had a “good discussion” about medical marijuana in recent weeks, with arguments being made both for and against it to council.
“The public needs to understand that we are not banning the use of medical marijuana, we are banning the facilities to dispense, cultivate or process it within city limits until the state comes up with the rules and regulations needed for us to keep it under control,” Harrington said.
Watson said he “can’t support” the legislation in any form.
“We don’t ban any other medication this way,” he said.
He called it an access issue.
Watson said if one of his children was sick, and a doctor prescribed medical marijuana and he couldn’t access it easily because of a city ban, he would be “furious.”
Separately, council took no action on an ordinance that would continue funding the Arts Partnership of Greater Hancock County through the city’s hotel/motel bed tax until 2019. The partnership has received 10 percent of the city’s share of the tax, which amounts to about $40,000 a year, since 2014.
The funding is set to expire Dec. 31.
Peggy Grandbois, Arts Partnership executive director, said the partnership helps provide arts education in Findlay and Hancock County schools to students who would otherwise have very little exposure to the arts.
Since 2014, partnership officials said, the money has allowed the nonprofit to nearly double its reach to students and adults, increasing those served by programming from 10,000 to nearly 17,500 each year.
Without the city revenue, officials say the partnership will not be able to develop additional arts education programs.
According to the partnership, nearly 14,000 students attended its School Day performances in the past three years, and an additional 13,000 students were exposed to the arts through its Arts in Schools program.