Warren County communities confront medical marijuana issue

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Warren County communities confront medical marijuana issue

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A South Carolina man is seeking permission to grow medical marijuana between Lebanon and Mason in Warren County.

Property to be used in the medical marijuana business is changing hands in unincorporated Warren County, while leaders of municipalities in the county, and across Ohio, weigh how to prepare for the coming new business before the rules have been set by the Ohio Medical Marijuana Program.

The 3.3 undeveloped acres just south of Lebanon in Union Twp., where cultivation of marijuana for medical use has been permitted under county zoning rules, recently sold for more than twice as much as it was valued.

County Zoning Supervisor Mike Yetter said last week he still expected at least one other permit application, possibly for land in Harlan Twp. in the southeast corner of the county.

A 3,500 square foot pole barn for medical marijuana cultivation is described in a permit issued for 3.3 acres on Cox Smith Road south of Lebanon

Anil “A.K” Bhatara of Anderson, S.C., purchased the vacant land off Mason-Morrow-Milgrove Road, in Union Twp. for $90,000 On May 18, according to Warren County property records.

The price was $5,000 more than the previous owner paid in August 2014 and more than double the $43,550 listed as the current true value of the land in the Kings school district, but using a Mason mailing address, records showed.

Neither the property owner or the applicant for the county zoning permit, Karun Bhatara, could be reached for comment on the purchase price or plans for the property.

Bhatara is also expected to build a home on the property, along a street with homes on large lots.

Details on the Harlan Twp. location remain scarce. The person, inquiring Gary Hadley, originally was planning to cultivate medical marijuana on land in Turtlecreek Twp., but later focused on land in Harlan Twp., Yetter said.

Neither Hadley or Harlan Twp. officials could not be reached about this case.

Townships such as those targeted for the use in Warren County have no local zoning authority, but can regulate the use through the state health code, according to Bruce McGary, the assistant county prosecutor who is advising the county on the issue.

Last month, McGary and Yetter briefed the county commissioners. Agricultural uses are exempted from county zoning regulations.

Elsewhere in Warren County, Springboro is close to prohibiting medical marijuana businesses and Lebanon is discussing what to do about the legalization of medical marijuana in Ohio. Cities and villages can zone out the use through local rules.

The Springboro Planning Commission on Thursday recommended approval of regulations that would ban the cultivation, processing or dispensing of marijuana anywhere within city limits.

After declaring a moratorium earlier this year that runs into August, Springboro leaders decided to “just say no for now,” City Manager Christine Thompson said Friday.

A July 20 public hearing has been scheduled on the proposed regulations.

Tuesday, Lebanon City Council is to continue to discuss amending local zoning code “allowing or prohibiting the cultivation, processing and dispensing of medical marijuana within city limits,” according to a slide from a presentation to be made at the meeting at city hall.

In Springboro, Police Chief Jeff Kruithoff was among staffers advising against permitting medical marijuana businesses.

The Warren County Sheriff’s Office is the law enforcement agency with jurisdiction in unincorporated areas where the businesses are to be established.

“We will follow and enforce the law accordingly when it becomes fully in effect,” Sheriff Larry Sims said in an email.

Kettering and Oakwood are among area cities that have banned the coming business or are studying the issue.

In June, Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed a law legalizing marijuana for use by patients with one of 21 conditions, such as cancer, traumatic brain injury or chronic pain. It also allows medical marijuana edibles, oils, patches and vaporizing, but not smoking or home growing, to supply the patients.

The county permit would be used as part of submissions made to qualify for one of up to 24 medical marijuana cultivator licenses the Ohio Department of Commerce can issue “prior to” Sept. 9, 2018, according to the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program.

The prohibition should take effect by Sept. 17 in Springboro.

The lack of certainty about the state rules was among the motivations for at least temporarily banning medical marijuana businesses, Thompson said.

If the state rules make for conditions under which city leaders decide such activities could work inside city limits, “We’ll take another look at it,” Thompson said.

Medical Marijuana Ban Public Hearing

7 p.m., July 20

Springboro City Hall

320 W. Central Ave.

Springboro

937-748-4343

Medical Marijuana Discussion

Lebanon City Council

7 p.m. June 5

Lebanon City Hall

50 S. Broadway, Lebanon

513-933-7200

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