A public hearing before the Houston County Board of Commissioners drew a crowd on Feb. 28 as community members spoke out against a temporary ban on the sale edible cannabinoids.
The hearing surrounded a proposed “interim ordinance placing a moratorium on the sale of edible cannabinoid products and/or hemp derived tetrahydrocannabinols (THC) food and beverages within the County of Houston.”
According to the interim ordinance, if passed, it would place a temporary ban on the sale of legal THC products in Houston County “for a period of up to 12 months.” In the ordinance, the Board listed concerns of “public peace, health, morals, safety, and welfare” as just a few of its reasons for proposing the interim ordinance.
Prior to opening the floor, District One Commissioner Dewey Severson made sure to clarify for all in attendance that the purpose of the hearing is to gather input and that, as of now, no definitive decision has been made by the Board.
“We are just considering something. Nothing has been planned,” said Severson. “This is to get information only. There will be no decision made tonight.”
At the public hearing, 57 attendees signed in at the door, with an additional 25 to 30 individuals present via Zoom. There were 26 individuals who spoke at the hearing, many of whom were county residents and passionately opposed the moratorium.
Several speakers disclosed personal medical conditions, such as arthritis, joint pain and insomnia and pointed to THC and CBD products as their primary source for relief. Caledonia resident Sam Gavin was one such individual. Gavin suffered a life-altering stroke some years ago and informed the Board she uses hemp derived products daily for pain management.
“CBD products have been essential to helping me cope with my shoulder pain,” said Gavin. “If you truly care about our town, you will reconsider this ban.”
Marine veteran Jonathan Wood of Decorah also stepped forward, pointing to CBD and THC as agents that help him function, as did many others. Wood additionally stated “the moratorium is the bigger threat to public safety,” as the temporary ban would simply encourage Houston County residents to purchase THC products online or on the black market, where quantities and potency are less regulated, if at all.
“Banning [THC products] does not reduce the demand,” said Alexander Troester of Brownsville.
In contrast, Sue Link, Caledonia Elementary School Principal seemed to be the only speaker in favor of the moratorium. Link addressed child safety concerns and the known fact that THC edibles often look like candy and are appealing to kids.
“I’m here to speak for the youth of our community and the parents who don’t want this,” said Link. “I’m concerned about our kids, plain and simple… it’s about our children and the message we’re sending.”
Though the safety of Houston County youth is a major concern and was echoed by the Board of Commissioners, many speakers asserted it is the responsibility of the parent or guardian to ensure THC products are properly stored and inaccessible to children.
It is notable that the City of Caledonia would be exempt from the moratorium because the City Council previously reviewed and approved an ordinance allowing the sale of legal THC products on Feb. 13.
Per Section III, provision C of the proposed county ordinance “cities that establish licensing and rules, sales management control, checking identifications (ID’s), enforcement, compliance checks, license fees and address other regulatory issues may, by resolution of the city council, be exempt from this moratorium.”
The Board of Commissioners plans to consider the thoughts and opinions expressed at the public hearing and plans to make a definitive decision regarding the proposed moratorium at their regularly scheduled meeting on March 14.
Reach associate editor Rachel Stock at 507-724-3475.
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