Jun. 3—The seeds for allowing medical cannabis dispensaries in the city of Athens were planted in November 2022 when council members voted on the matter 4-0, with one abstention. The matter before the council now — or, to be more precise, June 5 during a specially called meeting — is whether to nurture the potential of local dispensaries to maturity or rip the whole thing out by the roots and repeal the ordinance.
To date, much has been said about both sides of the debate, and that debate is not what we are entertaining here. Our aim is that the discourse, as with all issues before local government, should get a fair and full hearing — and that’s on us, the residents of Athens.
You might think that such debate is a foregone conclusion — the issue was publicized multiple times before it was voted upon last year — but an “aye” vote on the ordinance by Councilman Harold Wales and three colleagues in November exemplifies the issue. Faced with a state deadline, and later under counsel of the city attorney that a yes vote on the ordinance could be repealed with future action, Wales noted that, “Before we voted on this to either yes or not to bring legalized marijuana to our city, I did not receive anything from anyone. Once I voted for it, I started receiving calls all the time.”
This is the exact opposite of democracy in action. It’s not so much, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it,” but when lawmakers are given no or little input from their constituents, it’s close enough for government work.
Which brings us to next Monday, five months after a locally contentious issue was roundly ignored.
You likely have an opinion about whether or not medical marijuana dispensaries should operate in our city — many do, though the opinions could surprise you if you view our online poll at enewscourier.com — but unless you let your city representatives know what that the opinion is, the vocal, or even silent majorities will rule.
Three of the five available council members’ votes will be needed to affect any change in the ordinance, and whatever side of that change you support, it is your responsibility to let council members Chris Seibert, Harold Wales, James Lucas, Dana Henry and Wayne Harper know where you stand before Monday. Will the prospect of medical cannabis dispensaries wither on the vine or bear fruit in the future? You decide.