Marijuana

ONTARIO – Ontario City Council passed its third temporary ban regarding medical marijuana-related facilities Wednesday night.

In a 4-2 vote, council passed legislation that forbids any medical marijuana cultivators, processors and dispensaries within the city for a six-month period. Fourth ward councilman Dan Zeiter was not in attendance.

“One of the stances we have is that the state doesn't have a full grasp on how this is going to unfold, especially from the financial side, the banking side,” said at-large Councilman Eddie Gallo, who voted in favor of the ban.

“I think that's why we're just being wary and passing these temporary moratoriums until things get better established, things get better solidified on the state level, possibly the federal level.”

Gallo added that he’s not personally against the use of medical marijuana.

Second Ward Councilwoman Michelle Webb and Third Ward Councilman Mark Weidemyre were the only members to vote against the ban.

Weidemyre recalled how a company hoping to open a marijuana cultivation facility in Ontario approached council approximately a year ago, promising to bring 43 jobs with a $1.7 million payroll. 4Front Ventures later received a "no by default" shortly before the second six-month ban was passed in June 2017. That ban expired in December 2017.

“If the state is moving to allow medical marijuana, we might as well get those kinds of jobs in the city,” Weidemyre said.

Further, he knows people with Parkinson's Disease, who he believes could benefit from medical marijuana.

Weidemyre expressed support for 4Front Ventures last June, but ultimately voted for the last six-month ban.

“We were trying to work things out,” he said. “(With) the first ban, I said, ‘Let's get our ducks in a row, and let's do it right.’”

Since then, he’s done his research and believes the facilities will be highly regulated.

Webb first shared her opinion on the legislation after the May 2 meeting. She expressed intentions to vote against the ban, as she did in June 2017 and did again Wednesday evening.

“(Medical marijuana is) no different than any other prescription medication,” Webb said in May. “If we called it something other than medical marijuana, no one would be having this heartburn with it.”

Since then she’s heard from “a lot of members of the community,” most agreeing with her opinion.

“Really, the only people I've seen that aren't in support of it have not lived in Ontario,” she said.

Webb attributed her opinion to personal experiences with cancer and in law enforcement. Webb says she was fortunate enough to avoid chemotherapy, but has seen family members with chronic pain who could use medical marijuana.

“I’d rather see them use medical marijuana than be on Oxycodone, or Oxycontin, or something way more addictive and that has a lot more side effects than, in my opinion, medical marijuana would ever have,” Webb said.

She added the "high" associated with marijuana isn’t achieved through medical marijuana. In 22 years of law enforcement, she consistently saw more alcohol-related issues than those associated with marijuana.

“It’s not any more a gateway drug than alcohol is,” she said. “We need to teach our kids – just like you would with any other prescription – that this (medical marijuana) is not something you’re entitled to or you have access to.”

The idea to renew the six-month ban was discussed briefly at an April council meeting after President James Hellinger brought it to council’s attention. Council’s most recent ban expired Dec. 21, 2017.  It was passed in June 2017.

Ontario’s first of the now three temporary medical marijuana bans ran from September 2016 to March 2017.

The legislation was introduced May 2 and read three separate times at three separate meetings before council voted. No one addressed council on the matter during its public commentary sessions between May 2 and June 6.