By: Sharon Aron Baron
Until Florida legislation changes and medical marijuana dispensaries can be regulated of under their home rule, the Coral Springs city commission voted 3-2 to ban them.
Immediately after Amendment 2 was passed by Florida voters in November of 2016, the City of Coral Springs put a 180-day moratorium on local businesses and land use approvals for medical marijuana dispensing organizations and treatment centers due to the fact that no rules and regulations were yet established by the state. Every 180 days, the moratorium had been extended, until this week when the commission voted to quit extending the moratorium and to outright ban them.
During the first hearing held on December 20, 2017, Mayor Skip Campbell said he was totally against the state legislation leaving them with no choice where they either had to either approve it and dispensaries could go where a pharmacy could go. He said there was a legislative session approaching where they would have an opportunity to change that. According to the Sun Sentinel, state rules adopted last year left cities with two options: Ban dispensaries outright, or regulate their locations to the same degree that pharmacies are regulated. Unlike pharmacies, though, federal rules don’t allow medical marijuana, and that fact makes it a cash-only business, which is often considered a magnet for crime.
Campbell believes they’re falling into what the legislature wants them to do: force cities to come out and say, ‘No you can’t have them when 76 percent of the people in the state of Florida voted in favor of medical marijuana’.
Commissioner Joy Carter said she looked at the ban more like a proactive stance until they know that it can be regulated. “I think this gives us more leverage over the moratorium because we’re not saying we can never change our minds, because we can still move forward. I think we’re in better control of the future,” said Carter.
Commissioner Larry Vignola reflected on a time when there was an increase in crime due to the pill mill situation in Broward County. “…You see some of these people lining up from out-of-town, even out-of-state license plates and some of the crime that came along with it and people coming into Coral Springs just for it. That’s my concern. That’s why I’m in favor of going forward with the ban, and if down the road, if things change and the legislature makes it more user-friendly for the city we can go ahead and change it.
Campbell reminded the commission why medical marijuana is beneficial. He spoke about his law partner’s son who was born with a genetic disease and was having about 150 seizures a day. His doctor told him to go to Colorado to use medical marijuana which cured his seizures. “I’ve seen that it does help people with legitimate problems. Will you have illegitimate uses? You’re damn right you’re going to have it. That’s the way society’s been.”
“If at 190 days things change, we can go ahead and make the change now. If at 60 days from now things change we can go ahead and make the changes,” said Vignola. “ I’d rather do this. It’s less work for staff, we don’t have to keep going through the process and keep having this discussion over and over.”
Vice Mayor Cimaglia and Commissioners Carter and Vignola voted for the ban on medical marijuana dispensaries. Mayor Skip Campbell and Commissioner Daley voted against the ban on medical marijuana dispensaries.