WILLIAMSBURG, Ohio — As Ohio looks to open dozens of new medical marijuana dispensaries across the state, in Clermont County the Williamsburg village council voted against allowing one to open its doors within the village.
The potential dispensary location on Main Street will remain empty after the Williamsburg council voted unanimously against it after a council meeting during which the issue was debated and commented on by the public.
"To approve a business of this type, in our opinion, helps to normalize that marijuana is OK for our community," said Matt Earley, superintendent of the Williamsburg Local School District.
He raised concerns during the meeting about the message the dispensary could send to children.
"Our school district has spent several years educating our students about the dangers of drugs, not only several years but several decades and how these gateway type drugs lead to much worse outcomes for users," said Earley.
Gary Chase spoke at the meeting in favor of the dispensary. He said medical marijuana helped his wife to successfully stop abusing opioids.
Gabrielle Dion Visca, founder of MedicateOH, a group of Ohioans who work to provide facts and information about marijuana and medical marijuana use, also disagrees with Earley's concerns.
"The science doesn't support that," she said. "In fact, the science supports just the opposite and a lot of cannabis now is referred to as an exit drug."
In order to meet the state's application deadline to be considered for one of 73 new dispensary licenses, the company behind the proposal needed support from the village by the end of September.
Council unanimously voted against it and said there wasn't enough time to thoroughly examine the pros and cons of the dispensary.
"The turnaround time here kind of just got hit on us a little quicker than we had thought," said Mary Ann Lefker, mayor of Williamsburg.
Currently, there's only one dispensary available within reach of Clermont, Warren and Clinton counties. The pharmacy board hopes to address this through the new licensing process.