After a month of debate, St. Clairsville City Council has voted to ban medical marijuana businesses within city limits.
This decision came after tabling the ban during prior meetings to allow further review of its implications. This week’s vote occurred during the first meeting of the new year and included the input of new council members Perry Basile and Jim Velas and new Council President Tim Porter.
Basile cast the sole vote against the ban. Councilman Mike Smith, who had asked that the matter be tabled during prior meetings, abstained from voting, saying he did not feel sufficiently informed.
Basile argued that medical marijuana could provide a financial benefit.
“We’re starving for business here in St. Clairsville. Whether you’re pro-marijuana or against marijuana, there’s a legitimate reason it’s out there,” he said. “If it’s a viable business within the legal parameters of our city.”
St. Clairsville Law Director Richard Myser pointed out that any sales tax generated by medical marijuana would go to Belmont County, and that marijuana remains illegal under federal law.
“Because of that, banks won’t lend these businesses money, and they won’t allow them to have bank accounts, and so these are cash transactions only. … Cash businesses tend to promote illegal activity,” Myser said.
Mayor Terry Pugh restated his opposition to bringing such business into town. He brought up such issues as the hazards of cash-transaction business and the possible lack of qualifications of dispensary clerks.
Councilman J. Mark Bukmir, a pharmacist by trade, also spoke in favor of the prohibition.
“To me, the benefits are not worth the risks,” he said.
Councilwoman Beth Oprisch said she would prefer council look at further research on the potential benefits and hazards of medical marijuana businesses. Council members also referred to various articles that cited correlations between medical