By Cheryl Splain, KnoxPages.com Reporter
MOUNT VERNON — Legislation prohibiting all medical marijuana activities within the city received its first reading at Monday night's city council meeting.
In a committee meeting held at 6:40 p.m., Mount Vernon resident Andrew Pike voiced his support for the ban. Mount Vernon resident Scott Miglin opposed the ban. “As a pharmacist, this is bad for the patients of Mount Vernon and the surrounding area. You will be forcing them to go outside the city,” he said, adding that the diagnoses approved for treatment by medical marijuana make traveling difficult for patients.
Discounting a revenue stream is Miglin's second reason for opposing the ban. “You are at a point where you are going to start raising taxes, and you are going to ban an industry which is a multi-billion industry, brings potentially hundreds of jobs, a legitimate industry backed by our state government,” he told council.
Councilman Sam Barone said he was concerned about collateral crime associated with medical marijuana activities. “Can you alleviate that concern?” he asked Miglin.
Miglin, who said he plans to open a dispensary, said that unlike regular pharmacies when anyone can come into the store and browse while getting a prescription filled, medical marijuana dispensaries are tightly controlled. Once the patient receives a physician's recommendation for the marijuana, the patient pays a $50 fee to get a medical marijuana card, including a photo ID. Only the patient or a caregiver is allowed into the foyer; once they are properly identified, they are escorted into the dispensary. The entry is regulated and monitored with cameras.
Councilman John Francis questioned why medical marijuana is not regulated under the same procedures as opioids. Miglin responded that a federal ban on medical marijuana prohibits the research that goes along with other opioids.
Francis also said that “someone's banking that in a few months it will be recreational and anyone can go in and purchase.” Miglin pointed out it would be just like the sale and purchase of alcohol.
Chris Menapace of Woodlake Trail said that although he is not necessarily against the proposed ban, he is “slightly disappointed with the accelerated pace” council is taking toward enacting legislation. He said he spoke with Colorado officials about increased crime, increased incidences of operating a motor vehicle under the influence and revenue streams. He encouraged council members to do their due diligence and do their own research.
“This is one of those big-ticket items, and I don't think we need to discount the residents' ability to handle more than one [issue] at a time,” he said.
In other action, council reduced the tax abatement granted to Replex Plastics from 100 percent to 80 percent. Jeff Harris, president of the Area Development Foundation, said the reduction is appropriate because the number of jobs initially thought to be created (20 to 25) did not materialize. Council also:
*Authorized payment of bills and transfer of funds
*Accepted a Department of Homeland Security grant for $637,728 which the fire department will use to buy a new 75-foot ladder truck. The current 25-year-old ladder truck is outdated according to National Fire Protection Agency guidelines and cannot be sold. It has to be used for training, scrapped or sold to a non-fire occupation such as tree trimming. Chief Chad Christopher would like to donate it to the Knox County Career Center for use in its fire service. The city's local match of 10 percent is $63,772; its total responsibility may top out around $150,000.
*Authorized the safety-service director to bid for a new 75-foot ladder truck
*Gave a first reading to legislation setting the number of hourly employees
*Adopted a revenue budget for the first six months of 2018
*Authorized a contract with the Public Defender Office for $45,000
*Authorized appropriations, including $33,119 from Ariel Corp. for summer seasonal help, $57,000 of a $200,000 grant for Probation Improvement & Incentive, $17,000 grant incentive award, $1,500 from FEMA for grant writer's fee and $1,750 from the Mount Vernon Lodge 140 (Elks) for the probation awareness program
*Authorized the safety-service director to bid for the Pleasant Street brick street improvement project, the Coshocton Avenue water loop project and widening of U.S. 36 at the intersection with Vernedale Drive.