The issue of a medical cannabis dispensary was the focus of public comment at the Feb. 12 meeting of the Jackson County Commission.
Several members of the Ravenswood City Council, along with Ravenswood Mayor Josh Miller, spoke passionately about the need for such a facility. On Feb. 4, Ravenswood City Council members voted to approve a lease agreement with Mountaineer Integrated Care for the old city hall building, pending the approval of a permit from the state to open the dispensary. The subject is also included on the agenda for the Feb. 18 meeting of the Ripley City Council.
For the County Commission meeting, the agenda item being addressed was listed as the medical cannabis prohibition ordinance.
“We held a public meeting on the dispensary,” Miller said. “There was no protest at that meeting and it passed the council unanimously. My recommendation is to either table the motion, leave Ravenswood out if that’s possible, or not do anything. Let free market and capitalism decide. Don’t make us throw away B&O taxes and possible sales tax in the future.”
Miller and council members asked if there had been a petition to put the issue on a referendum.
“There are usually voters asking for this,” he said.
According to WV Code 16A-7-6, a “County may pass an ordinance by vote of the residents of the county to prohibit the operation or location of a medical cannabis organization within that particular county. A prohibition under this section shall remain in effect unless and until changed by a subsequent vote.”
Ravenswood City Council members, Denise Toler, Dee Scritchfield, and Jared Bloxton also spoke in favor of allowing dispensaries.
“I’m baffled as to why it’s even on the agenda,” Scritchfield said. “This is medicated only. To see adults and children suffer when there could be help is just tragic. Every state that has allowed this access has seen the opioid addiction rates go down.”
Toler said she’d rather see a medical cannabis dispensary than a Suboxone clinic.
Bloxton then pointed out that 25 jobs could be created at the Ravenswood dispensary.
The final person to speak to the issue was Ravenswood resident, John Casey, who said that the timeline was the key with the deadline for applications being Feb. 18.
When Casey asked if Ravenswood could be exempted from any referendum, Eric Holmes, legal counsel to the commission, stated that according to WV Code 16A-7-6 the answer was no.
At the end of public comment, Commission President Dick Waybright asked if there was a motion on the agenda item concerning the medical cannabis prohibition ordinance. Hearing neither Commissioner Mitch Morrison nor Mike Randolph do so, the item “died for lack of motion.” Therefore there is no county prohibition of medical cannabis dispensaries, growers, or processors. No referendum will be on the May primary ballot.
The Bureau of Public Health will issue no more than 100 dispensary permits statewide, up to 10 grower permits, and up to 10 processor permits.
The local board of health and any municipality will still have some part in the final decision of any permits for medical cannabis.
After the public forum concluded, Commissioners received an update from Emergency and Medical Services (EMS) Director Troy Bain.
Bain told commissioners that he attended a webinar from Centers for Medical and Medicaid on the upcoming data collection tool.
“Approximately 25 percent of our billing is Medicaid or Medicare,” Bain stated. “If we don’t use this collection tool correctly, we could lose 10 percent of our funding. We aren’t currently on the rotation to use it, but next year we will be.”
Bain also said that his office will once again be helping with applications to the Brothers Keeper program at Parchment Valley Conference Center.
“This program makes repairs and additions to low income housing or to those in need,” Bain explained. “We try to help with applicants who need handicap accessibility to their homes. By doing this, not only are their lives better, but we’re able to get in easier and more quickly if they need medical assistance.”
Following Bain’s report, Commissioners adopted a resolution which opposes, within the limits of state and federal constitutions, any efforts to unconstitutionally restrict the Second Amendment rights of Jackson County’s citizens. The resolution also expresses the desire that public funds not be used to unconstitutionally restrict Second Amendment rights or to aid federal or state agencies in those restrictions. The Second Amendment involves the right to bear arms.
This resolution declares that Jackson County is now a Second Amendment Sanctuary county. According to the website, sanctuarycounties.com, Jackson joins 24 other West Virginia counties and cities with this designation.
During public comment, Toby Johnson thanked the commission for the passage of the Second Amendment Sanctuary resolution.
In other business:
• An agreement with Melissa Runion to work as an independent contractor for cleaning services at the extension service effective Feb. 13, was approved.
• The transfer of part-time EMT Courtney Jimenez-Fannin to full-time EMT effective March 1, was also approved by the Commission.
• The Commission approved a contract with Pete Gould & Sons, Inc. for work at the airport under the Airport General Revenue Grant.
• Also approved by the Commission was paperwork for the Ambulance Levy, Library Levy, and Commission on Aging Levy, for a special elections to coincide with the May 2020 primary election.
• It was learned that Jackson County has the largest 4-H program in the state.
Toby Johnson thanked the commission for passage of the 2nd Amendment Sanctuary resolution
At the end of a 12-minute closed-door executive session for EMS personnel issues, no action was taken. Commissioners then went into a board of review and equalization meeting.
The next regular meeting of the commission will be at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 19 at the Jackson County Courthouse.