Marijuana issue to appear on November ballot

by Melissa Martin

Feb. 6 city council meeting

Following a lengthy committee discussion, city council authorized the city’s law director to prepare legislation that would prohibit the cultivation, processing and dispensing of marijuana citywide.

The move comes just months after Ohio voters approved Issue 2, which legalizes the use of recreational marijuana, up to 2.5 ounces, for adults 21 and over. The new state law also permits private citizens to grow up to six marijuana plants per adult in their households.

While surrounding cities, including Broadview Heights, have elected to place temporary moratoriums on all recreational marijuana-related activity for the next 12 months, Law Director David Matty told council the law city voters approved in 2017, which prohibits medical marijuana from being cultivated, processed and dispensed in Brecksville, shields the city in the interim.

“State law only permits dispensaries [to operate] in those communities in which they are not prohibited now,” Matty said. “Here, they are not permitted.”

Matty advised council to adopt laws regulating the production and sale of recreational marijuana that mirror the laws the city already has in place to prohibit the production and sale of medical marijuana.

Several council members agreed that being consistent is key.

“In my opinion, this would be the right way to go about it,” Councilman Brian Stuckey said. “We’ve already done it with the medical side, so now the recreational side just follows suit.”

Matty plans to presented the requested legislation to council in the coming weeks. Upon approval, it will be forwarded to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections prior to the August filing deadline for placement on the November ballot. The provision, he said, would require the approval of at least 55% of city voters to become law.

Council member Ann Koepke advised her colleagues that the city laws that control medical marijuana activity in the city only passed by 275 votes seven years ago, which means educating the public will be necessary if council expects the ballot provision to pass.

Council president Dominic Caruso said he believes what needs to be explained to the residents is that what they will be voting on does not overturn Issue 2.

“Cheech and Chong can still have 12 plants in their house and can do what [they] want,” he said. “This would just ban dispensing and cultivation.”

Prohibiting dispensaries would also prevent Brecksville from sharing in any of Issue 2’s tax incentives that are being passed along to local jurisdictions. The current law affords a 36% revenue stream forwarded to communities that permit such activity, Matty said.

Should council later find the state revenue worthwhile, council would be able to reverse its decision by passing legislation eliminating the prohibition. That, too, would require the approval of the electorate.

“At that point, if the windfall was so tremendous, it would likely pass with flying colors.” Caruso said. ∞