City Council Meeting preview
Back in November of 2016, Florida voters approved Amendment 2 — Expand Medical Marijuana. The amendment calls for legalizing medical marijuana for individuals with specific debilitating diseases or conditions as determined by a licensed state physician. It is also designed to require the Florida Department of Health to register and regulate marijuana production and distribution centers.
In response to Amendment 2, local cities like Apopka, Winter Garden, and Winter Park, chose moratoriums, and outright bans against medical marijuana. However, in a surprising vote last month, Orange County commissioners unanimously to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas of the county. Altamonte Springs also voted in a to support the Amendment.
And with the Orange County, and Altamonte Springs votes, Apopka Commissioner Kyle Becker believes its time to revisit the City Council’s vote to ban medical marijuana.
“I respectfully ask this Council to re-contemplate the ban on medical marijuana within the city limits of Apopka,” wrote Becker to the City Council in a letter dated December 8th, 2017. “My request comes as a result of new developments which have occurred impacting one of the primary reasons this Council voted to support a ban. The Board of Orange County Commissioners and City of Altamonte Springs, both immediate neighbors, have recently decided not to implement similar bans. It was these anticipated bans that led staff, and many on this Council, to believe a burden would befall our city by way of increased density of these types of businesses.”
Becker, the lone Council member against the Apopka ban, has added this issue to today’s City Council meeting as part of the City Council Reports section. Now armed with the Orange County vote, and a neighboring municipality, he thinks it’s time for Apopka to follow suit.
“The fact these bans did not come to fruition is a significant pivot which I believe warrants additional conversation. During the public hearing, I made my opinions on medical marijuana very clear. I believe medical marijuana to be much more beneficial to our responsible residents who depend on it as a safer alternative to legal opioids in their treatment of severe and sometimes terminal health ailments, than the unfortunate few who will undoubtedly attempt to abuse it.”
He also cites a statewide vote with 71% support for Amendment 2 as evidence that this is the will of the people.
“The fact is our electorate voted overwhelmingly to support this amendment to our state constitution and entrusted our elected leadership to implement it in a fair and disciplined manner. While I fully support and defend our home rule powers as municipal leaders, I also respect the efforts our colleagues in Tallahassee made in drafting a thoughtful and clear law governing the safe implementation of medical marijuana cultivation and dispensing across the state of Florida. While I personally support a broad acceptance of legally licensed medical marijuana businesses, I fully respect the concerns expressed by you, my colleagues, during the debate.”
In his letter, Becker also references a vote taken in 2015 by the Apopka City Council that anticipated the coming of marijuana cultivation and dispensing.
“Prior to my installment as Commissioner of Seat 4, members of this Council voted to approve Ordinance 2388 in 2015, designating geographic regions within our city in which cultivation and dispensing would be permitted, and it is in the spirit of that ordinance and prior support I hope to modify for our immediate purposes. The most noteworthy change would be to amend the language from reference to “medical marijuana dispensaries” as a specific entity to “licensed businesses dispensing medical marijuana”. This would allow any business, pharmacy or medical marijuana dispensary, to dispense medical marijuana in the previously referenced and supported geographic areas which possess a valid license issued by the state of Florida.”
He also believes his alterations to the Ordinance would answer many of the concerns of the Council during the previous discussions and debates.
“My proposed revisions would also allow for greater residential buffers in accordance with state law, and retain processes to treat licensed businesses intending to dispense medical marijuana as a special exception in commercial, industrial, and agricultural districts within the approved geographic locations. This approach allows for case by case flexibility, yet provides practical limitations to thwart perceptions that growth in this market could become out of control.”
The Apopka City Council meeting is tonight at 7 PM at the Council Chambers of the Apopka City Hall – 120 East Main Street in Apopka 32703.