SHELBY -- The controversial topic of medical marijuana has made its way to the city of Shelby.

Council unanimously passed the first reading of an ordinance on Monday prohibiting the processing, cultivation and retail distribution of medical marijuana within the city of Shelby. A second ordinance specifying the prohibition of the cultivation, processing and retail dispensing of medical marijuana in all zoning districts was referred to the city's planning commission.

Both ordinances were sponsored by all five members of council, and authored by Councilman Charlie Roub.

"Medical marijuana is a hot topic," Roub told Richland Source. "There are those out there that think it's a miracle drug. I'm not really a believer in that."

Before his retirement as chief on March 7, 2015, Roub had 35 years of policing experience under his belt. He said it is this experience that leads him to a stance against medical marijuana facilities in Shelby.

"I think it's a smart move to protect our citizens with more and more communities taking that step," Roub said. "I know I don't want my children exposed to this. I feel it can lead to other problems any time you have that kind of availability. By passing this would add an extra layer of protection, and we wouldn't have those issues down the road."

Marijuana has been a divisive topic throughout Richland County in recent years. The city of Mansfield approved similar legislation prohibiting the cultivation, processing and retail distribution of medical marijuana within city limits at a meeting in November 2017.

Madison Township also voted to prohibit the cultivators, processors and distributors of medical marijuana within the township at their April 2 meeting. This past June, the city of Ontario passed its third temporary ban forbidding medical marijuana cultivators, processors and dispensaries within the city for a six-month period. A company hoping to open a marijuana cultivation facility had approached Ontario more than a year ago, promising to bring 43 jobs with a $1.7 million payroll.

Councilman Nathan Martin cautioned against the proposed benefits of medical marijuana facilities, citing a study commissioned by the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University exploring the economic and social costs of legalized marijuana.

"For every dollar gained in tax revenue in Colorado, citizens spent approximately $4.50 to mitigate the effects of legalization," Martin said. "We need to keep this in mind as those who push for legalization try to dangle the tax revenue carrot in front of the general population."

Roub specified in the ordinance language that marijuana (cannabis) remains classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, making it a violation of federal law to possess, manufacture or distribute marijuana.

The ordinance also states that because of federal law, banks and other financial service providers are prohibited from conducting business from known marijuana enterprises. The inability to bank the large amounts of cash resulting from the sale of marijuana would leave medical marijuana facilities open to crimes such as robbery, burglary, theft, money laundering and/or tax evasion.

"There is nothing in either piece of legislation that prohibits the use of medical marijuana," Roub said. "It's the processing and distribution that we're concerned with."

The legislation also drew commentary from members of the public. Benjamin Mutti, a resident of Lexington and a spokesman for the Richland Community Family Coalition, has been a vocal opponent of medical marijuana facilities and has spoken against the issue in multiple communities. 

"I believe Shelby is very forward-thinking and can see down the road what can happen," Mutti said. "Shelby protects its schools, they have a drug testing program. We're a very proud community. We believe here that throwing water on a grease fire is not very wise." 

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