Commissioners approve support for marijuana grow application

By Michael Hart - Special to the Sentinel

POMEROY — The Meigs County Commissioners will support Racine in their efforts to bring a proposed medical marijuana grow facility to the village.

Racine Village council passed a measure early in June supporting the application of Ohio Therapeutics to build and operate a grow operation in the area. The county commissioners were asked for support in a previous meeting, but sought more information prior to passing a resolution supporting the “major economic development opportunity.” The resolution of support was unanimously approved by the commissioners.

The moves follow Ohio’s recent legalization of medical marijuana.

The local economic potential of the operation would be significant, as the facility has committed to quickly employ 40-50 staff at $15 an hour.

For their most recent meeting, the commissioners invited Reggie Robinson of Health Community Services, an advocacy coalition focused on substance abuse, to provide additional information.

Commissioner Randy Smith noted “The law omits county commissioners from any legislative authority, that was left up to trustees and local government. What we would pass could only be in support of the economic impact,” but that the board wanted more information before a vote.

“Support comes with the responsibility of education,” said Commissioner Tim Ihle.

Robinson cited studies on other states that legalized medical and/or recreational cannabis that found usage rates increased (including youth use and young child exposure), legalization brought a reduction in the perception of harm of marijuana, and a substantial amount of medical cannabis is diverted for illicit use.

“I understand the income boost, but it does not keep up with societal costs. There are all kinds of costs to be factored in, and we would like businesses to share that cost,” he said.

Robinson caveated his information, saying his information was not in opposition to the presenting application.

“I am not here advising anti-measure,” but that data gleaned from other states’ legalization experiences was broadly useful.

The following discussion agreed Ohio’s approach was the most stringent of any legalizing state, with recreational use prohibited and significant regulation on medical operations. It also touched on the significant medical benefits, including combating opiate abuse, either as an alternative pain medication or as a tool in opiate addiction treatments.

Summarizing the Commissioners’ position, Commissioner Smith said “If the measure was in support of recreational (rather than medical), it would be a resounding ‘no’ from this board.”

The commissioners thanked Robinson for providing more information, with Commissioner Ihle saying that as legalization policy impact expands in Ohio, “Groups like yours (Health Recovery Services) will be critical.”

In other business, a contract with local attorney Charles H. Knight was approved to cover public defender duties in county and juvenile/probate court as had been discussed in the June 15 meeting. The commissioners did not renew the services of the public defenders office for common pleas court which expires on June 30, and elected to appoint a pool of outside attorneys to provide those services. Information on this decision appeared in an article in The Daily Sentinel on June 16.

The board approved a list of nominations, submitted by EMA Director Jamie Jones, to the Local Emergency Preparedness Committee (LEPC). The committee serves as part of state emergency response guidelines, and includes representatives from a variety of Meigs emergency, law enforcement, health, and community agencies.

Director of Jobs and Family Services Chris Shank presented multiple contracts and resolutions for approval, including: reallocating some JFS funds into Child Protective Services, renewing foster care providers, securing non-emergency transport options, and a measure to allow a specific grant’s money to flow between counties partnering on an opiate program through the state Attorney General.

Bills were paid in the amount of $11,684. A technology related line item for the Clerk of Courts office of $12,437 was paid, and $5,000 appropriated from the general fund for supplies.

Board President Mike Bartrum adjourned after an hour and fifteen minutes. The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Meigs County Commissioners is Thursday, June 29 at 11 a.m. in the Meigs County Courthouse.

By Michael Hart

Special to the Sentinel

Michael Hart is a freelance writer for The Daily Sentinel.

Michael Hart is a freelance writer for The Daily Sentinel.