Tuesday, June 15th, 2021
City weighs restrictions on pot, abortions
By Sydney Albert
CELINA - City officials are looking into whether restrictions for medical marijuana dispensaries and abortion providers could be implemented in the future.
City council president Jason King at a Monday night committee meeting reported he has received numerous questions from citizens on whether the city could restrict medical marijuana dispensaries. King also mentioned he has been contacted by several citizens asking if abortion providing facilities could be restricted within city limits. While Celina currently has no such facility, King felt the subject was worth exploring given comments by President Joe Biden.
King said the president had made a comment in January stating he was committed to ensuring abortion access in every zip code.
On Jan. 22, the anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, a statement from the White House was released that read, "We are deeply committed to making sure everyone has access to care - including reproductive health care - regardless of income, race, zip code, health insurance status, or immigration status."
The statement goes on to say the administration was committed to codifying Roe v. Wade and appointing judges that respect its precedents.
Local governments across the country have passed ordinances declaring themselves "sanctuary cities" against abortion, said city law director George Moore. However, he said he wants to explore the effectiveness of such ordinances.
For instance, a Texas city has passed an ordinance outlawing abortion, but according to a Forbes article discussing the matter, the law couldn't be enforced unless Roe v. Wade was overturned, Moore said.
The city of Lebanon in southwestern Ohio has reportedly passed a similar piece of legislation. Moore stated he wanted to look into the language used, when it was passed and what ensued after the legislation's passage.
King said restrictions on abortion facilities in the city wouldn't necessarily prevent someone from getting an abortion; it would just stop abortions from being provided in Celina.
Regarding medical marijuana dispensaries, medical marijuana is permitted in Ohio, though it is heavily regulated. Counties are divided into districts, with only a select number of dispensaries allowed in a given district. Mercer County is in a district with Paulding and Van Wert counties, with the district limited to one dispensary; however, there is currently no active dispensary in the district, according to the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program's dispensary map.
King stated he has received a voicemail from someone reportedly scoping out property within the city for a marijuana dispensary. The caller had wanted to know if Celina had legislation that might restrict the operation of a possible dispensary.
Other citizens have also reportedly approached King with concerns about medical marijuana, and King said Monday he has issues of his own. He pointed out the city had put up restrictions on strip clubs and adult entertainment facilities in the city, and wondered if similar action could be taken.
Council member Mike Sovinski asked if the council was supposed to treat medical marijuana dispensaries differently from drug stores when both dispense prescription products. Drug stores can dispense substances such as Oxycontin, a prescription opioid, and other drugs that were more dangerous to the community, he said.
King pointed to instances of "back door sales" taking place at dispensaries that could become a potential issue. He also noted that in Michigan, medical marijuana was legalized in 2008 while recreational use was legalized about a decade later. The legalization of recreation marijuana is "always the goal in the end" for most people, King stated, which was another concern for him as a parent.
Marijuana use could also interfere with jobs requiring people to operate heavy machinery, which King said could become an issue in a job market that already has too many jobs and not enough laborers.
Restricting marijuana dispensaries within the city wouldn't stop people from obtaining prescriptions and filling those prescriptions elsewhere, just from doing it in Celina, he continued.
Council member Calvin Scott said he also doesn't see how a dispensary could be treated differently than a drug store, where back door sales could also potentially happen.
"I don't see this a lot different than a drug store. Now, granted, could that happen -the case that you were saying, about selling out the back door? Absolutely. Could it happen at a drug store, selling fentanyl patches out the back door? Absolutely," Scott said.
Several council members acknowledged the medicinal benefits of marijuana for various conditions, and noted that if they weren't getting prescriptions filled in Celina, they could go to Wapakoneta.
Councilman Eric Clausen questioned the ethics of forcing someone with a medical condition to travel long distances to fill prescriptions. The question is not necessarily whether a dispensary should be banned in Celina, Clausen said, as the state had already declared it legal. The question is whether a dispensary should be permitted in the downtown area, an important promotional area of the city.
He doesn't feel a medical marijuana dispensary would be the kind of business that would draw people in to shop, eat and see the lake on their weekend getaways.
If dispensaries were restricted through the city zoning code, the language would need to go through the city's planning commission, and public hearings would be required, according to Sovinski.
Moore requested time to research the issue and possible legal options. He said the city was able to restrict adult entertainment due to a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court that allowed restrictions under certain conditions, but he was unsure whether those restrictions would carry over in this case.
The legality of regulating different entities based on desirability was also unclear, specifically when entities as similar as dispensaries and pharmacies would be given different treatment, he said.
No action was taken on either issue, and the topics will return to the committee of the whole for discussion at a later date.