Cities consider cannabis regulations amid confusion from state

Apr. 26—VAN WERT — The city of Van Wert is poised to ban cannabis consumption on city-owned property next month.

Elida will soon prohibit commercial cannabis sales and cultivation, effectively banning dispensaries from operating within village limits.

The lack of clarity from state lawmakers regarding the voter-approved statute legalizing recreational marijuana hasn't stopped some local governments from adopting their own rules governing where people can smoke or buy products containing THC.

The initiated statute took effect Dec. 7 after voters approved the issue by a margin of 57% to 43%, legalizing recreational cannabis for adults who are at least 21 years old.

Dispensaries aren't selling recreational THC products just yet — by statute, retail sales should begin by September unless lawmakers rewrite the rules before then — but Ohioans may possess or grow marijuana in the meantime.

While lawmakers have introduced several bills to revise the statute, they have not reached an agreement regarding those proposals, which could rewrite possession limits, tax rates, home grow rules and local government authority to regulate cannabis.

The statute as adopted by voters already allows local governments to ban adult-use dispensaries, but existing medical dispensaries are exempt from those bans.

That means dispensaries in Wapakoneta, Lima and Delphos could transition to dual-use dispensaries as soon as September, if the state Division of Cannabis Control approves.

"It's an evolving area of the law," said Eric Pheneger, deputy law director for the city of Lima, who is advising Lima council regarding possible cannabis regulations.

When it comes to personal use, Lima Prosecutor Rick Eddy said the easiest way to understand the limits on cannabis consumption is to look at alcohol restrictions and replace the word alcohol with marijuana.

"Just like I can't drive down the street drinking a beer," Eddy said, "somebody can't drive down the street smoking pot. I can't be intoxicated on marijuana or alcohol in public if I'm creating a disturbance or a risk."

The Elida village council is expected to ban the commercial sale, cultivation and processing of cannabis within village limits.

The ordinance, which passed on its first reading Monday, does not affect home grow or private cannabis use.

The ban should take effect by August if council passes all three readings, which council members say gives them time to revise the ordinance if lawmakers pass a bill in conflict with the village's new rules.

The Van Wert City Council is moving forward with an ordinance banning cannabis use on city-owned property, which got its second reading Monday, but a proposal by Mayor Kenneth Markward to extend the city's ban on medical marijuana dispensaries to include recreational dispensaries appears to be on hold for now.

At-large Councilor Judy Bowers said residents told her they favor a dispensary so people won't purchase marijuana on the black market.

Dispensary supporters spoke of traveling to Wapakoneta and Michigan to purchase marijuana for their medical ailments, asking council to reconsider the dispensary ban.

"We're normal, just like everybody else," said Mark Wilson, a cancer survivor who manages a smoke and vape shop in Van Wert. "We just rely on this to be able to make it through our day."

"We need something locally for all the people around here," Wilson said. "There are more of us than you think."

Issue 2 possession limits

Possession: 2.5 ounces in any form except extract, which is limited to 15 grams for adult use. Adults may also purchase 2.5 ounces per day from licensed dispensaries.

Home grow: Individuals may grow six plants, though the statute limits 12 plants per household.