Insist Dispensary Rules Be Obeyed

Marijuana, or at least the active ingredient in it, will be for sale legally in East Ohio at some point. Local officials are right to have very mixed feelings about that.

Steubenville officials had imposed a six-month moratorium on permitting a medical marijuana dispensary to open in the city. This week, in a mixed vote, council agreed not to renew the measure.

Once state officials get the regulatory framework in place, two dispensaries will be permitted in the four-county area including Jefferson, Belmont, Monroe and Harrison counties. Whether anyone actually chooses to open such a facility remains to be seen.

Steubenville has a serious problem with drug abuse, including sale of illegal substances. Some local officials worry that allowing a medical marijuana dispensary would worsen the situation.

Indeed, there are legitmate reasons to worry. As some law enforcement officials have warned, the potential for abuse of the state’s medical marijuana law is high. As Councilman Gerald DiLoreto pointed out, marijuana obtained for legitimate reasons “will end up in the medicine cabinet” and, from there, may be taken by those, including young people, who mean to use it for recreational purposes.

Still, council members were right to open the door to a dispensary in Steubenville, simply because of the old admonition to keep your friends close — and your enemies closer.

Steubenville police are part of a regional law enforcement initiative meant to crack down on substance abuse. A dispensary inside the city, right under the police department’s nose, as it were, might be less likely to cause problems than one elsewhere, with the drug coming into the city.

Council members, in concert with the police department, should follow up on this week’s action by making it clear that if a marijuana dispensary opens in Steubenville, it will be placed under a law enforcement microscope — and shut down promptly at the first indication the state’s rules are not being followed to the letter.