BLUEFIELD — Bluefield officials have formally asked the Mercer County Board of Health to reconsider an earlier decision not to permit a medical cannabis dispensary to locate in the county.
The board made the decision in April after being approached by a perspective business and denied the request.
The law was changed to allow medical cannabis to be sold in the state in April 2017.
During that meeting, Bluefield Mayor Ron Martin, City Manager Dane Rideout, City Attorney Colin Cline, City Director of Community and Economic Development Jim Spencer and Bluefield Police Chief Dennis Dillow attended to urge the board to reconsider.
Rideout said the city has been approached about locating a dispensary inside the city and the business creates jobs and brings in revenue. He added that Mercer County is the only county in the state to make the decision not to allow it.
The bill that allows medical cannabis to be used by prescription as treatment for pain, cancer and other medical issues, was supported by both state Sen. Chandler Swope and Del. John Shott, he said.
All Bluefield City Board members also support it.
The medical benefits are well documented, Rideout said, and they also include treatment for sickle cell anemia and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
“It’s also an opportunity for revenue,” he said, especially for a border county that has lost so much business to Virginia because of things like the gasoline tax.
“We are actually bringing in folks from another state like Virginia to spend money here,” he said. Dispensaries in Virginia have not yet been established around the state.
“We are asking you to take a hard look at this,” Rideout told the board, also pointing out the manufacturing and growing portion of the equation as well. “We can’t delay that and get paralysis through analysis and drag this out and miss that boat.”
Spencer said he supports it as well, primarily for the medical benefits because it works and relieves pain, but also because of the economic benefits, with about 15 good-paying jobs created at each dispensary.
“I am a Christian,” he said. “I am against recreational use of the drug. But this is a project I can support.”
Spencer said he would not support anything he did not believe in, but these dispensaries provide a public health benefit.
Dillow said from a law enforcement standpoint he supports it as well because it would mean residents can fill prescriptions without having to drive to another county.
“It’s a bigger advantage to have it and have more control over it where it’s at,” he said.
Cline told the board it is in their power to change the decision, and whatever decision they make could be rejected by the county commission, but the commission itself cannot make the decision.
“There is no need to take action on the part of the commission,” he said. If they take action, it would only be to reject the board’s decision.
Considering the “economic contraction of our economy … I feel like we can’t afford to pass up a potential source of revenue…” he said.
“I personally have never used marijuana and I am not in favor or legalizing it for recreational use,” Martin said. “There are changing attitudes about the use and particularly about the medical use.”
Martin said if a member of his family had a medical problem and could benefit from its use, “I am all for using it.”
He said the revenue aspect cannot be ignored either, and also includes buying and leasing property.
“We will take this under consideration,” said board chair Dr. Randy Stevens.
But no timeframe was given on when a reversal of the earlier decision will be discussed.
— Contact Charles Boothe at email@example.com