Hilliard City Council has rejected a measure that could have led to a medical marijuana dispensary – the city’s first such business – in Mill Run.
On Nov. 8, council members Tom Baker, Les Carrier, Omar Tarazi and Pete Marsh voted against a modification of a planned-unit-development zoning that was required for a dispensary to open at 3799 Park Mill Run Drive.
Kelly McGivern, Andy Teater and Cynthia Vermillion voted in favor of the PUD modification.
Council’s decision overturned a 5-0 recommendation to approve the measure by the Hilliard Planning and Zoning Commission on Oct. 14.
If the PUD modification had been approved, the site would have been under consideration during an upcoming lottery for licenses to operate a medical marijuana dispensary.
The application to open a medical marijuana dispensary was Hilliard’s first such request, according to David Ball, director of communications for Hilliard.
Hilliard city planner John Talentino told council members the proposal “was not in conflict with the health, safety and welfare of the public (or) the development standards in the PUD.”
During public comment, Peggy Hale, who was elected to council on the Nov. 2 ballot, spoke in opposition to the dispensary.
Hale, a physician, told council members that although the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy has approved 57 dispensaries since the Ohio legislature approved the use of medical marijuana in 2016 and the state implemented it in 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve it.
Hale said she was concerned that if proposed legislation in the Ohio General Assembly to legalize marijuana were approved and Ohio joined such states as Colorado that have legalized marijuana, then medical marijuana dispensaries could sell marijuana for recreational use.
Dispensaries “normalize marijuana,” and use is more prevalent in areas where there is a high density of dispensaries, particularly among young adults who are still subject to “cognitive deficits” from its use, Hale said.
Hale also cited increased crime rates in Colorado since the legalization of marijuana in that state.
“We can draw a line and and let it stay in Columbus,” she said.
Carrier was among the council members who voted against the proposal.
“We don’t need another (dispensary),” he said. “There are already enough around.”
Carrier said a problem already exists with juveniles abusing liquid THC, the chemical in marijuana.
Council President Pete Marsh, speaking after the vote, said the dispensary is “the wrong site for that type of use.”
“Mill Run is primed for new development, and this proposal is not consistent for what is needed to attract other development,” Marsh said.
But Vermillion said she did not think a medical marijuana dispensary would lead to the problems Hale described.
“It is strictly a medical dispensary, and it’s legal,” she said. “I do not believe it would affect our youth.”
Vermillion said the language in the PUD modification indicated the dispensary would be strictly for medical use, but Carrier reiterated that cities, such as Gahanna, had placed a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries in part because of concerns about how the dispensaries would operate if marijuana were legalized.
More: Gahanna council approves one-year moratorium on medical marijuana facilities
City attorney Phil Hartmann told council members the proposed PUD modification was for medical marijuana and a zoning amendment would be required for a different use.
Hartmann said council could add “stronger language” to allay any lingering concerns.
McGivern said the “language is pretty clear” that the dispensary is limited to medical use and warned her colleagues about the message council would send if it rejected the proposal.
“Are we telling our residents who need to have medical marijuana that they need to go into Columbus because it’s a bad thing?,” she said. “Ohio voters spoke and overwhelmingly approved the use of medical marijuana for those individuals that need pain relief for chronic conditions.”
Tarazi said he would have preferred to postpone the application for further consideration but Greg May, an attorney representing the applicant, Dublin-based Jackson Real Estate & Development LLC, asked that City Council consider the application Nov. 8 in order to meet the applicant’s timeline for applying to the state for licensure as a medical marijuana dispensary.
Tarazi said he was not opposed to the Mill Run site being used as a dispensary but wanted more to time to craft language to address the concern that a medical marijuana dispensary could sell marijuana for recreational use if Ohio legalized marijuana and to further consider the statistics that Hale reported.
Jackson agreed to a proposal from Tarazi to amend the legislation by adding language that explicitly prohibited the sale of recreational marijuana and asked for a postponement until council’s next meeting Nov. 22, but May said the applicant needed to meet a deadline at 2 p.m. Nov. 18 to enter a lottery for 73 licenses to be issued for the operation of a medical marijuana dispensary.
“This could be a productive site that could benefit the area,” said May, citing its location near a CVS Pharmacy.
Franklin County has six medical marijuana dispensaries, May said.
The nearest two to Hilliard are on Georgesville Road to the west and Grandview Avenue and Interstate 670 to the east, he said.
Nine more Franklin County sites will be among the 73 new licenses granted, May said.
The property at 3799 Park Mill Run Drive is best known as a former Damon’s Grill and Sports Bar, but it operated for a short while as Jed’s Fireballs & Brew after the closure of Damon’s.
The property has been unused since Jed’s Fireballs & Brew closed in 2014, and it also was the subject of an unsuccessful attempt to open a gun range and shop in 2016.
The building on the site was demolished early this year.
The owner of the 1.9-acre site, according to the Franklin County Auditor’s Office, is 3799 Mill Run Partners LLC of Dublin.