Girard council to decide fate of medical marijuana ordinance Monday

By Graig Graziosi


The fate of a contested medical marijuana ordinance in the city may be determined during city council’s Monday meeting.

Council unanimously passed an ordinance July 11 establishing a licensing system for medical marijuana cultivators and dispensaries.

Mayor James Melfi vetoed the ordinance the week after the vote.

In order to save the ordinance, five of seven council members could vote to overturn Melfi’s veto.

The vote to overturn the veto is likely to happen at the 7 p.m. meeting.

Melfi said if his veto is overturned, he would move on from the issue. His opposition to the ordinance is largely ideological.

“I just don’t think the government should be involved with medical marijuana,” Melfi said. “I think we, as a society, as a government, shouldn’t be looking into it. I worry about the message it’ll send.”

The mayor also said his decision to veto may have been more difficult had a large dispensary or health care center intended to open in the city.

“It would be more difficult if anyone was actually planning on moving in because I’d have to weigh the good of the city against my views on this, but nothing like that is happening here. I’d still be against it, period.”

Council President Reynold Paolone criticized the mayor’s decision.

“I truly do not understand why he vetoed the ordinance,” Paolone said. “We’re allowing medicinal marijuana, not recreational. These aren’t smokeables. They’re pills for cancer patients and veterans. I have no idea why he’d be against this.”

Paolone believes since the initial ordinance was passed unanimously, the vote to overturn the mayor’s veto will be successful.

“Everyone in the world is for this,” he said, adding he was more worried about the message sent to the public about having “a head shop 250 feet away from a grade school” than what kind of message is sent about investing in medicine.

Paolone was referring to The Glass House, a business that features a variety of smoking interests, including vaping, that operates in a plaza across the street from St. Rose Catholic School in the city’s central business district. He said his issue isn’t with the Glass House but with the inconsistent messaging regarding the mayor’s veto justification.

A Pew Research Center report shows 57 percent of American adults in 2016 favored marijuana legalization.

Regardless, Melfi says he’s received far more positive feedback than negative as a result of his veto. “I received a card in the mail today thanking me,” Melfi said. “It’s been 100-to-1 positive to negative response from citizens.”

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