When 71% of Florida voters said yes to legalizing the use of marijuana for debilitating medical conditions in the last election, local authorities were left with many unanswered questions.
The new state law goes into effect January 3, 2017, and the deadline for counties to do anything is January 2, 2017.
Last Friday, at the request of County Attorney Matt Fuqua, the Calhoun County Board of County Commissioners held an emergency meeting to discuss a proposed ordinance to establish a temporary moratorium on growing, cultivation, processing, manufacturing, dispensing, distribution, and wholesale and retail sale of medical cannabis. The proposed ordinance also focuses on the opening, relocation, or expansion of any medical marijuana dispensing facility within unincorporated Calhoun County.
The proposed ordinance also directs county staff to develop proposed land development regulations and other recommendations regarding such cannabis related activities, provide for penalties, provide for severability, provide for codification and provide an effective date.
Attorney Fuqua opened the meeting stating this would only give the county some control and help regulate where dispensaries could be located.
Commissioners Gene Bailey and Danny Wise pointed out that the people voted for this and a moratorium would signal the board did not support their wishes and did not support the moratorium.
Commissioner Darryl McDougald said he felt it was better to go ahead with a moratorium now than have to face violations later.
Dennis Jones said we need to be able to control what goes on in our county.
Lt. Todd Wheetley, representing the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Department at the meeting, pointed out how the teen rate of marijuana use in Colorado is now the highest in the nation and that we need to be able to regulate dispensaries.
Bailey said the Florida Department of Health would determine who can be a dispensary.
Jones noted Bay County had already passed a moratorium and it would at least give us options if something happened.
Fuqua again noted the ordinance would only help us regulation locations.
Commissioner McDougald made the motion to move forward with the moratorium ordnance and was seconded by Commissioner Jeral Hall. Commissure
Jones also supported moving forward with the ordinance. Bailey and Wise were against moving forward so the motion carried and the meeting was adjourned.
Within a few minutes, Commissioner Hall asked to reconvene the meeting and a new vote was called for. Hall, Bailey and Wise voted no and McDougald and Jones voted yes. The motion to proceed with to advertised public hearings for the ordinance moratorium died and the meeting was adjourned.
On Monday Morning at 10:30 another emergency meeting was called to discuss the ordnance matter. Commissioner Bailey made a motion to proceed with the medical marijuana moratorium and Commissioner Hall seconded the motion.
Sheriff Glenn Kimbrel was present and offered more information on the subject.
“Although the Sheriffs Association adamantly opposed the amendment, we knew we needed to work with the legislature to determine how to govern it,” Kimbrel stated. “Recreational use of marijuana is really what’s behind this,” Sheriff Kimbrel noted. “We’re worried about pot shops opening and more will lead to more crime.”
After hearing the Sheriff’s concerns, Commissioner McDougald made the a motion to reconsider the ordinance and the motion passed 5-0.
Commissioner Bailey made a motion to advertise the ordinance and it passed 5-0.
The first public hearing on the ordnance will be held at 5:01 December 21 and the second public hearing will be January 2 at 5:01. The advertisement for the public hearing can be read in full on page 9.