Delta Village Council Discusses Medical Marijuana Legislation in Front of Packed House

https://photos.app.goo.gl/gUg3uoRTVzdKSCTKA

It was Standing Room Only and, in actuality, very little of that, as dozens of people crowded into the Delta Village Council Chambers to listen to what the Council members and Village officials had to say about legislation that would possibly allow a medical marijuana (MMJ) dispensary to conduct business within the corporation limits of Delta.   The crowd was mostly comprised of residents, Pike-Delta-York (PDY) school officials, and members of both local law enforcement and local clergy.

Prior to the portion of the Council meeting where anyone in attendance is invited to address the Council, Mayor Frank Wilton asked Village Solicitor Kevin Heban to clarify the issue that prompted the large gathering.  Mr. Heban explained that in 2016 and 2017, Council approved one-year moratoriums to prevent the cultivating, processing and selling of medical marijuana and by the time the second moratorium had expired, all MMJ permits had been awarded and there was no longer a need for further legislation.

The State has now reopened permit applications for growing facilities and dispensaries.  In fact, it is planning to more than double the number of dispensaries and the Village has recently received an inquiry regarding opening a dispensary in Delta.  He also said the because Delta has no current legislation to prevent it, a dispensary would be able to operate in the Village as long as it met the appropriate zoning classification.

The inquiry led to Village Administrator Brad Peebles asking Mr. Heban to draft legislation to allow Council to manage the request.  The proposed legislation is as follows:  Ordinance 21-14.   An ordinance allowing for the issuance of permits, licenses and approval for marijuana cultivation, processing and/or sale of similar businesses within the Village of Delta and declaring an emergency.

To further clarify the issue, a copy of a statement from Mayor Wilton and the members of Council was handed out to the attendees, referencing the expired moratorium ordinances of 2016 and 2017 and read, in part:

Now, almost five years later, with an understanding of regulations and oversight imposed by the State of Ohio on these facilities, Delta Village Council has considered the facts and implications associated with allowing the highly regulated activities to take place within the Village limits.  It is with great concern of Council that these facilities, especially retail facilities (dispensaries), could locate within an appropriately zoned area of the Village without local regulations or restrictions.  For this reason, Village Council has been asked by the Village Administrator to consider Ordinance 21-14 as prepared by the Law Director as an emergency measure, requiring local regulations be developed addressing these businesses and giving Village Council the full right of approval and issuance of permits.

Village Council also wishes to make it clear, the Village advocates for the education and awareness programs taking place to inform the youth and community alike about substance abuse in any form, whether legal or illegal.

 Once Mr. Heban was finished talking, members of the public wanting to address the Council, began to take their turn at the podium.  The first to speak was Dr. Michael Mattin, a life-long resident of Delta, President of the PDY Board of Education and the Medical Director of the Emergency Room at Toledo Hospital.  Dr. Mattin expressed his concern for the youth in the community that is already struggling from the past 18 months “at a high level” with the mental impact of the pandemic and what further impact bringing in an MMJ facility would have on them as well as the community.   “I worry about the big decisions here on the behalf of our children.  I worry about the culture we’re trying to set in our community,” he said.  “I’m asking you today to vote no on this.”

Delta resident Tracy Ruple was next to address the Council.  “We don’t want it in our community.  I don’t care how much money it will generate.  It’s not the money we want to build our community on,” said Ms. Ruple.  “We want a good community.  People aren’t going to move here if this is what we are going to represent to them.  It’s not going to bring in the families we want to bring in to this community.”

Doug Ford, PDY High School Principal, spoke next saying he was there to “advocate for our children” and also asked Council to vote no.  “My biggest concern today is the reputation of our community in contrast to the other communities in Fulton County,” said Mr. Ford.  “My second concern, maybe most important, is to speak against increasing the access and availability of marijuana to young people.  I wouldn’t be doing my job if I wasn’t here tonight.”

The first clergyman to address Council was Pastor Matthew Voyer of Trinity Lutheran Church in Delta.  Pastor Voyer expressed concern that when he and Beth Thomas of Fulton County Healthy Choices Caring Community (HC3) recently asked Council if they would place a moratorium on an MMJ dispensary there were no questions from Council and no action taken. He also questioned the timing of the sudden emergency legislation coming so soon after his request for a moratorium.

“I wish I could say the timeline revealed incompetence but I don’t think it does,” remarked the Pastor.  “I think it’s abusive.  I think it’s corrupt.  And it’s not how local government is supposed to function.  This conversation, this issue is too important to be treated this way.  Council members, don’t do this to the people of Delta.” 

Several others, including PDY Superintendent Dr. Ted Haselman and Ms. Thomas of HC3, spoke to Council and requested the legislation not be passed as written and to delay the vote until the next meeting until more information is available and the community has time to consider all the facts.  As each anti-MMJ dispensary speaker finished and returned to their seats, they were met with a round of applause.

One Delta resident spoke to Council and supported the legislation, citing that the increase in tax revenue would be beneficial for the Village and PDY Schools and that the youth in town would not just be able to walk in and buy marijuana.    “I think you guys are missing the point.  It’s a lot of money we’re missing out on.  It could go to a lot of things in this town.  Sports, travel expenses, food for the kids,” he said.  Everybody had had to pay income taxes again.  I ask that everybody thinks about that.”  He returned to his seat with no reaction from the crowd.

Mr. Peebles explained that another reason for the legislation was to protect the Village’s control of where the facility would be located.  He recommended, if the Ordinance was enacted, that any facility be placed in the industrial park on the east side of town to avoid potential traffic congestion on Main Street.

Eventually, after a motion was made and seconded, the emergency provision of Ordinance 21-14 was put to a vote and failed 3-2 with no votes coming from Council members Lynn Frank, Ashley Todd and Chad Johnson.  Councilmen Tony Hawkins and Michael Tanner voted in favor of the provision.  Councilman Art Thomas was absent.

Motions were then made to vote for a First Reading of Ordinance 21-14 and it was approved 4-1 with the only no vote coming from Ms. Frank.  Two more Readings, one each during the next two Council meetings, will be required if the Ordinance is to pass followed by a 30-day waiting period.

The next Council meeting is scheduled for Monday, November 1, 2021 at 5:30 PM in Memorial Hall.

Pictured:  Kevin Heban, Village of Delta Law Director

Google Photos Link Above:  Photos from the meeting

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