Opinion: Commissioner Vignola’s Antiquated Stance on Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in Coral Springs Must Be Put in Check

By: Jason Perlow:

Three weeks ago, I attended a workshop of the Coral Springs City Commission and I was appalled by the presentation on medical marijuana given by the Chief of Police, Clyde Perry — a city employee.

He listed many debunked fears about dispensaries — including that fatal car accidents will increase — a fallacy that has been disproven by the American Journal of Public Health in a five-year study of auto accidents in recreational marijuana states California and Colorado, which has shown there is zero correlation between the two.

He used fear tactics to attempt to influence the commission not to vote on removing the ban on medical marijuana dispensaries in our city.  At the same meeting, Commissioner Vignola seemed to be under the impression that home values will plummet and there will be a mass exodus from our town.

Let us be frank. None of these things will happen if we allow medical marijuana dispensaries in our city. We know precisely what the outcome will be — people who have serious debilitating conditions will be able to get the medications they so desperately need.

We know this based on the experience of other South Florida towns that have allowed dispensaries such as Deerfield Beach and Lake Worth.

As a technology journalist who has written about the medical marijuana industry, I have visited a number of medical dispensaries in South Florida and also in states like Washington, Oregon, and California. They are all clean, extremely secure and professionally run. And the only people entering medical dispensaries are patients who need their medicine. People who require it in order to have productive and fulfilling lives, to be able to return to work. Or to be able to spend what time they have left without being in debilitating pain.

February is Black History Month. Marijuana was scheduled as part of the Controlled Substances Act during the Nixon Administration explicitly to oppress people of color as a follow on to racist laws first enacted in the 30s and 50s as a result of “reefer madness” fear-mongering. And the people who have been prosecuted for crimes related to this relatively harmless plant are overwhelmingly people of color.

But times are changing. In 2016, the people of the State of Florida voted overwhelmingly to implement Amendment 2 into our state constitution. Medical marijuana is legal and even our conservative Governor wants the implementation to be even more liberalized with more licenses for dispensaries to be opened up, statewide.

And yet Coral Springs, its Police Chief and Commissioner Vignola want us to remain in the Nixon-era mindset of the 1970s subscribing to fear politics while other towns become more progressive and pass us by.

Commissioner Vignola and Chief Perry think that Coral Springs patients can simply “arrange for delivery” or “go to Deerfield Beach”. What they don’t understand is most medical marijuana dispensary companies only deliver to this area maybe once a week, and sometimes it can take significantly longer to get a delivery from a central distribution center.

If they had a loved one or they were sick themselves and needed to go to CVS or Walgreens to pick up their medication — but the rest of the city commission didn’t allow those stores to operate — and said, “You only have to wait a week for delivery or drive to the next town to pick up these meds” would they be willing to accept that? I think not. This is no different.

Commissioner Dan Daley, as one of his final acts prior to running for state representative, has requested that a vote be taken on preliminary language for a town ordinance to approve medical marijuana dispensaries in Coral Springs.

Commissioner Josh Simmons and Vice Mayor Joy Carter approved this motion. Vignola, predictably, has acted in his usual obstructionist fashion and has voted no and has even stated, on record, that he feels he knows better than the 76 percent of Coral Springs residents who overwhelmingly approved Amendment 2.

However, despite Vignola’s efforts to obstruct, the motion is going forward, but later than desired — on March 20, after Dan Daley’s vacated commissioner seat is filled and the new Mayor of Coral Springs takes office, whoever this may be.

It should be noted that the commission could have voted on allowing dispensaries at any time after the last election because a clear majority now exists. But Joy Carter, while expressing her change of heart on medical marijuana to me and to the town, has refused to go against Commissioner Vignola and to break the deadlock by taking a supporting vote with her colleagues Daley and Simmons. Her performance in this matter has been extremely disappointing, to say the least. She prefers to kick the can, rather than to take immediate action and ownership of the issue.

In the upcoming election, we must make medical marijuana a priority issue for the City of Coral Springs. Every candidate for Commission Seat 2 and for Mayor must be questioned on their intentions and must provide a clear answer on their leanings towards dispensaries in this city. It is also readily apparent that Commissioner Vignola is intending to try to place additional roadblocks by supporting ultra-conservative candidates for commissioner and mayor that subscribe to his antiquated and completely uneducated line of thinking.

Vignola cannot be voted out of office because he has two years left to go in his term. However, our equivalent mechanism for calling for a vote of no confidence in his ability to lead is to elect a commissioner for Seat 2 and a mayor that supports progressive policies on medical marijuana and on other matters of importance to our town.

Only by electing progressive candidates for mayor and Seat 2 commissioner can Coral Springs move into the future. Coral Springs has already replaced former Commissioner Lou Cimaglia with Josh Simmons in the last election as a clear message we would no longer accept Cimaglia’s incompetence and unwillingness to work with his progressive colleagues. Now, Vignola, who has habitually acted as the city’s self-appointed conservative gatekeeper and feels he knows better than the will of his own constituents must now also be put in check.

El cubano
Michael Bander

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