Green Cove Springs City council keep brakes on medical marijuana

Kile Brewer
Posted 8/2/17

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The medical marijuana moratorium in Green Cove Springs will be extended six months after a unanimous decision at Tuesday evening’s city council meeting.

With November 15, …

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Green Cove Springs City council keep brakes on medical marijuana

Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The medical marijuana moratorium in Green Cove Springs will be extended six months after a unanimous decision at Tuesday evening’s city council meeting.

With November 15, the deadline for their initial moratorium, quickly approaching, City Attorney Jim Arnold placed an item on Tuesday’s agenda for discussion on how to proceed. He said the city would need to start discussions about 90 days prior to accepting any marijuana-related ordinances.

“Your choices are, ban medical marijuana treatment center dispensaries, or allow them, just like you do a pharmacy, essentially,” Arnold said. “It’ll take a few months to get this through.”

He sadi whatever was decided at the meeting would not be a final decision, it would only be a recommendation to Planning and Zoning to either propose an ordinance banning or allowing dispensaries within the city.

After Arnold’s introduction, the room fell silent for a moment as no council member wanted to speak first. Eventually, council member Pam Lewis voiced her opinion on the topic.

“I realize there are some people who truly benefit from medical marijuana,” Lewis said. “But I am opposed to dispensaries in the city.”

Lewis said she does not intend to seem callous to those who need medical marijuana, but she is very opposed to the businesses moving into Green Cove. She doesn’t think that a ban in the city would prevent patients from getting treatment, that instead Green Cove-based patients could simply drive to Fleming Island or another part of the county instead of sourcing their medication in their home city.

“If we decide to ban the dispensaries,” Lewis said, “The people that have a true need for medical marijuana will still have the same accessibility.”

After Lewis got things moving, council member Van Royal decided to speak, disagreeing with Lewis’ strong opposition to the topic.

“I’m going to be reticent to ban it, and I’ve thought long and hard,” Royal said. “It’s a tough issue, because there are people that need it, and along with that 70 percent of our state voted for it, which I can only assume the majority [of our voters] did as well.”

In the 2016 election, 74 percent of Clay County voters marked Yes on Amendment 2 when the issue was on the general election ballot. Local support actually exceeded the 71 percent statewide favorable vote.

Aside from Lewis, Vice Mayor Connie Butler seemed to be the only other council member outright against medical marijuana being available at dispensaries within the city limits.

Steven Kelley holds reservations about the dispensaries making their way into the small town business market, fearing unintended negative impacts. However, he said that he would vote to allow them into the city if the ordinance would favor heavy restrictions on marijuana treatment centers.

Mayor Mitch Timberlake took a different approach, speaking to his belief that no decision they make as a council will keep marijuana out of the city.

“I think we’re going to have medical marijuana facilities inside of Green Cove Springs,” Timberlake said. “Ultimately, I think it’s going to come down to [the state] saying ‘This is a legal business to conduct in the state of Florida,’ and we’re going to have to accommodate it.”

He also took time to point out locations near and even across the street from businesses within the city limits that are actually on county property and would be allowed to become medical marijuana treatment centers if the county passes legislation allowing the businesses in the county.

After everyone had spoken, Lewis spoke in favor of extending the city’s moratorium another six months, and while she may not support the issue any more in six months, it would provide the state time to figure out how this issue will be handled before Green Cove Springs makes any official decisions whether or not to allow it in the city. In passing the moratorium, the issue will be left on the table until May 15, six months out from the end of the current moratorium. Council will hear the next update on this issue sometime in February or March.

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