Portsmouth votes pro pot

By Nikki Blankenship - [email protected]

The City of Portsmouth stood in favor of medicinal marijuana Monday night when they authorized Solicitor John Haas to look into legislation permitting a marijuana dispensary within the City.

Cheryl Shuman, medicinal marijuana advocate spoke to Council offering her support in the measure.

City Manager Derek Allen explained that the State of Ohio passed legislation allowing medicinal marijuana last year. At that time, the City issued a six month moratorium on municipal legislation permitting a dispensary. Allen added that the City chose to issue the moratorium while awaiting guidelines from the State level. Still awaiting those guidelines, the City issued a second six month moratorium in February, which has now expired. He added that the State has now established guidelines and thus the City could make a decision as to how to proceed.

Shuman explained that according to State guidelines, there would be one dispensary allotted for the region, which includes Scioto, Lawrence, Jackson and Gallia counties. The State, however, ultimately decides where the dispensary is located. However, the City could choose to take themselves out of the pool by banning a dispensary. Additionally, if Portsmouth is the only city in the area permitting a dispensary, it would likely be the location.

Councilman Kevin W. Johnson stressed that just because the City passes legislation permitting a dispensary, the State may not choose Portsmouth for the development.

“It doesn’t mean we’ll get it. It doesn’t mean it will come here,” he commented.

Councilman Gene Meadows stood in opposition to medical marijuana, stressing that it is so often considered a gateway drug. He further warned that just because it is medicinal does not mean it will not get diverted to the streets for illegal use.

“I think it’s dangerous,” he stressed.

Councilman Kevin E. Johnson responded with his support.

“I do support this, and the key reason I support this is medicinal,” he stated. “For me this is a no brainer.”

He continued by listing the numerous known medicinal benefits as well as the beneficial uses in the treatment of children.

Councilman Tom Lowe agreed that taking a progressive step in support of medicinal marijuana not only for the health benefits but also for the financial benefit. Lowe admitted that he has used marijuana and found medicinal purposes in its use but also sees the huge economic opportunity.

Shuman informed Council that this is really an opportunity to bring investment into Portsmouth, stating that this could bring hundreds of jobs to the City. She added that there are also opportunities for lab testing and extraction within the City, stating that the lab testing component could be advantageous to Shawnee State University as well.

“This is where Portsmouth could really be progressive,” she stressed.

The City would have to follow State guidelines which prohibit the dispensary from being located within 500 feet of a church or school. The City voted to move forward on legislation to permit a dispensary, which will include consideration of zoning. Other cities to pass such legislation, for example, have prohibited marijuana facilities from being located within residential areas.

Council is expected to revisit the legislation at the next meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 25 on the second floor of the municipal building on Second Street in Portsmouth.

By Nikki Blankenship

[email protected]

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.