MOUNDSVILLE — With two council members absent Tuesday night, a divided council narrowly voted to welcome medical marijuana dispensaries to the city.
Mayor David Wood was joined by council members Judy Hunt and Brianna Hickman in voting for an ordinance amending the zoning code to allow medical cannabis dispensaries in the commercial zones of the city. Council members Eugene Saunders and Phil Remke voted against the ordinance, while Ginger DeWitt and Sara Wood were absent. The ordinance will become codified if passed on second reading, set for the March 17 council meeting.
No dispensaries can be established in Marshall County, though, unless the Marshall County Health Department and Commission authorize their establishment, a matter which neither entity has taken action on yet.
City Manager Rick Healy said that whether or not the county ultimately allows the establishment of dispensaries, Moundsville wants to have one foot in the door if the opportunity presents itself.
“It’s Moundsville saying that we want to be ready when and if someone wants to come here,” he said. “(The health department) said they were going to do it on a case-by-case basis. If they got notification that the state approved Marshall County, then they’d look at this. … If they approve it, it goes to the commission. The commission can either say yes or no, or put it to a vote.
“At the city level, when and if that all passes, if someone says ‘Okay, here’s our application for Moundsville.’ We don’t want to have to say we don’t know what to do with them. We may never have one, but if we do, we want to know where they can go,” Healy said.
Healy pointed out that Moundsville was maintaining a neutral stance on the issue, in reference to encouraging the commission to accept dispensaries, but that they were just leaving the door open.
“If it happens, it does. I don’t think there’s any pressure either way. I think there are people who want (medical marijuana), for obvious reasons, and endorse it. … We’re not taking a moral or ethical stance either way, we just want to be ready,” he said.
Remke made two unsuccessful motions to amend the ordinance before its passage, both of which failed to receive a “second” to come to a vote.
One amendment was to prohibit the dispensaries from being established near schools or daycares with a range of 1,500 feet, which is 500 feet more than the ordinance states. This would be the same distance required by video lotteries in the city.
City attorney Thomas White said the 1,000-foot requirement was pulled directly from the West Virginia State Code, but could be modified freely.
The other amendment was to limit the number of dispensaries in the city to two. The failure of these amendments, Remke said after the meeting, was the reason he voted against the ordinance.
“I was afraid that there might be too many going in one town,” he said, referencing that only 100 permits for dispensaries would be given out statewide. “There might be some cities that aren’t even going to have it, statistically. That’s why I’m saying there should be one, or no more than two in our town.”
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