5-0 vote sends Ordinance 2388 back to the drawing board

 Opinion

By Reggie Connell/Managing Editor of The Apopka Voice

At its Wednesday meeting, The Apopka City Council voted unanimously to modify Ordinance 2388 – which banned the sale of medical marijuana in Apopka.

That is the takeaway, but how they arrived at that result is the true story…

* * *

It was 6:30 PM. 30 minutes before the beginning of the Apopka City Council meeting, and dozens of people were present in the chamber, and in the parking lot at City Hall.

“This is going to be a long night,” I said to my colleague sitting at the media table.

“Yeah I’m guessing 10 PM,” he replied.

“I’ll take 10:30 as the over/under,” I said back to him, hoping his prediction was the winner.

And as we spoke, the Council Chamber filled to capacity.

On its own, the Council agenda was full. There were three items on the consent agenda, three items on the business agenda, and 10 items on the public hearings/ordinances/resolutions agenda, including the second reading on an alcoholic beverages ordinance that was bound to be debated for a long period of time.

It was going to be a long meeting.

But the primary reason Council Chambers was a full house was because of Commissioner Kyle Becker’s request to discuss policy revisions on Ordinance 2388 concerning medical marijuana.

Speakers from all over the state shared their experiences. They came from Gainesville, New Port Richey, Bushnell, Lake Mary and Pasco County to explain to the Council how medical marijuana had, in many cases, given them their lives back. In total, 14 spoke in favor of medical marijuana, while four speakers were against it. Mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, brothers and sisters, veterans and Apopkans all got up and told their story with a common theme of how medical cannabis saved their lives or eased their pain.

It was a moving presentation that gave the City Council a lot to think about.

Becker, Commissioner Doug Bankson, and Mayor Joe Kilsheimer had the most to say once the issue was given back to the Council. Becker opened with his presentation that seemed to gain purpose after hearing those 18 people speak.

“I’m pretty passionate about the compassionate use of medical marijuana,” he said. That does not mean I’m compassionate about crime. I do realize there are people who will take advantage of anything. But by a show of hands how many people have been personally affected, or have a family member or close friend who suffers from cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, PTSD, ALS, Krohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease,  or multiple sclerosis? Quite a few. By the same show of hands how many people have been convicted of strong-arm robbery, burglary of a dwelling, how many people have taken advantage of someone in a criminal manner? Not many. And so for us to sit up here and make a policy decision based on the lowest common denominator of our society is not helping.”

Becker went on to focus on the credibility of the dispensaries, and ask for a revision to the current ordinances that do not allow medical marijuana in Apopka.

“The fact of the matter is that these are very legitimate longterm businesses that are not going to jeopardize their business by transacting in something that is not safe. The product they sell is legal, and obviously a major health benefit to the people that use it. So what I recommend to this Council is that we revoke the ban and that we entertain good sound legislation and policy for the residents of Apopka – 71% of whom overwhelmingly voted to support this product so that they can have readily available access to it.”

Bankson was the most verbal about his apprehension to welcoming medical marijuana into Apopka, but he too left the door open after hearing those stirring accounts.

“Everyone has heartfelt feeling and emotion behind this, and the only way we can rationally deal with this is to diffuse the emotion and look at the heart of the issue. The problem is there is a ditch on both sides of the road. And there’s no question that this is not a debate about the benefits of cannabis. But there are experts who are cautioning us about some of the other things. Here is my perspective – there is a ditch on both sides of the road. You have some saying you can’t fall into this side of the ditch – true. The other things – and this is the thing that angers me – sincere people are being used for what’s coming next and that concerns me. All you have to do is google Mr. Morgan’s rant that says we’re going to get this (marijuana) for recreational use. But all medications have pros and cons… and when you’re suffering severely it’s worth trading these things to get relief. I understand that. It was stated that one or two dispensaries would be a godsend. That’s my issue. Just because Orange County voted yes is not reason enough for me to say ‘let’s open the floodgates.’ I would feel more comfortable if we had a zoning measure similar to what we had before we were put in this situation to make us look like the bad guys. You’d have to be heartless not to care about these people. But we do have a responsibility to both ditches, and the danger is what has happened in the eight states (that legalized marijuana both recreationally and for medical purposes). Florida is more restrictive, but they are using this as a springboard, they have openly stated this. The question is are we opening a door that we may regret? How can we fulfill what everyone wants… and doesn’t want? As an elected official I do feel that responsibility and knowing there’s a huge lobby all across the US to try and make it (marijuana) for recreational use.”

Despite his reservations, he too was open to Becker’s proposal.

“So what can we do with this? If we can deal with the zoning… what can we do to keep it for the pure purposes and get it to those who sincerely need the help? So I am open to addressing this as a zoning matter as long as we don’t open the door to another ditch.”

Kilsheimer reminded the Council of what circumstances created the ban in the first place. However, those circumstances changed after a surprising vote by Orange County.

“We’ve got to keep this simple, and for me, this has always been a zoning issue,” he said. “And the reason it’s a zoning issue is that you get one choice – ban or don’t ban. My sole objection prior to us considering the ban a few weeks ago was supposedly all of the jurisdictions around us were going to ban it, and if we didn’t we would wind up with all the dispensaries. Well, that went out the window when Orange County voted to allow dispensaries. As it stands today, we’re going to have it on our doorstep whether we take action or not. It’s a zoning issue. Therefore it makes no sense for Apopka to continue to keep banning medical marijuana dispensaries.”

The discussion went back and forth between Council and City Attorney Cliff Shepard until a resolution was found, at which point Kilsheimer asked Becker to make a motion:

“I would move that we instruct staff to make revisions to Ordinance 2388 to allow for medical marijuana treatment centers in the city of Apopka, which marches us towards the eventual revocation of Ordinance 2582 which bans medical marijuana treatment centers within the city of Apopka,” Becker said, and then watched as his motion carried 5-0 to the applause of a still large crowd.

* * *

So it was an emotional, passionate, sometimes adversarial evening. It’s not too often that emotional presentations win the day with the City Council, or with me for that matter, but win the day they did.

I went into this meeting indifferent to the issue… actually more interested in how Medical Marijuana might affect the coming Apopka elections. But in all sincerity, I left happy that those Apopkans that need medical marijuana might be given easier access to it.

It was also good to see the Council, who only a few weeks ago voted 4-1 to ban medical marijuana, reverse its course when circumstances merited a change in direction. They worked through their diverse opinions on a volatile subject and made a good faith effort to do what was best for some of its most vulnerable residents.

Oh, and by the way, the meeting ended at 10:27 PM… just as the journalists predicted.

Merry Christmas Apopka, and Merry Christmas to the City Council. You had a good night too.

 

 

22 COMMENTS

  1. Do you need to have special zoning for REAL MEDICATIONS? If this is to be used as s LEGITIMATE medication, it would be sold by prescription at any LEGITIMATE drug store…just like all prescriptions! Being this stuff is being sold at “special” dispensaries, instead of legitimate pharmacies is a DEAD GIVEAWAY this is nothing more than a ruse! We don’t have enough intoxicated people on the road, do we? We don’t have enough law enforcement matters, do we? How many times is there any discussion regarding law enforcement when it comes to legitimate prescriptions? Anybody with half a brain can see this matter for what it is…a ruse for making this garbage available for anyone who wants to get high. This is a VERY OBVIOUS FACT!

    • You can keep repeating it over and over but your nonsense argument is one of form over substance. It’s very sad that there are people like yourself who would rather force sick people to suffer more than is humanly possible to avoid rather that admit that you’re wrong, wrong, wrong. You should be ashamed of yourself Seargent.

      Oh I wonder, does the fact that Germany and Uruguay sell through their pharmacies make a difference? How about the major pharmacy chains in Canada actively lobbying for authorization to be licensed? Your illogical “thinking” is simple minded, circular and just plain inhuman.

  2. I have listened to the audio of the last Apopka City Council meeting that has just now been posted as of today, Dec. 20th, 2017 city council meeting that can be found at Apopka.net then click on to the Meetings and Minutes, Agenda icon that is in a circle, and then log on to the correct meeting date by scrolling down on the list of agendas….I have some comments!…….

  3. First of all, why was one commissioner allowed to dictate the entire meeting on one subject matter, the medical marijuana, for sooooo long? Is the Apopka City Council ruled by one commissioner’s personal opinions? I thought it was supposed to a collective effort of policy making and discussion equally of all the council members……

  4. Talk about getting hostile and aggressive on the council! Too bad this commissioner doesn’t share the seriousness of the alcohol expansion that was passed and approved, that he made the motion for sitting up there on the council, to relax the alcohol and liquor laws, allowing alcohol establishments next to churches, daycares, parks and closer to schools and extending the hours alcohol can be bought earlier and later into the nights, into the wee hours of 2 am. …..he even said it wasn’t a touchy matter for him, but this medical marijuana subject he pushes so aggressively for, sure is touchy to him, if someone in this city, or elsewhere disagrees with what he wants!!!

  5. I cut him off after listening to that boring presentation…..I cut my computer off, right here at home! Tired of that crud! And if I had of stayed longer at the city council meeting, and would of been sitting there, I would have got up and left! Last time I checked, unless something has changed, he is not a Dr. or expert in the field of marijuana, or an attorney either! LOL…..hahahahaha.

  6. I hope he can stomach constructive criticism because often I think he jumps to quickly on things without seriously considering the opposing viewpoints, that he doesn’t want to consider, because of only what he wants. Way to fast to react and jump in there with his actions on many things before the council…….he seemed to want take on the city attorney, who clearly said he needed more time to get with his legal people or others about this subject matter…..

  7. And I am for the medical marijuana dispensaries, but I remember what they kept emphasizing back when they voted in the ban on these dispensaries, and that was the fact, that anyone with a doctor’s prescription could get the needed medical marijuana through delivery service right to your home. That was emphasized over and over then, when the ban was voted in….yes, it would cost, that is true, it wasn’t going to be free….

  8. I don’t care what this commissioner says, there were a very substantial amount of people from out of this area there at that meeting. They had the right to be there, but facts are facts! Apopka residents there too for sure, but A LOT OF OUT OF TOWNERS and professional advocates, what I would refer to as “LOBBYISTS”!

  9. Now we have an election coming up in this city……and we have read in the newspapers and have heard the talk about those who opposed “medical marijuana” at the local levels…..that it would be considered “political suicide” meaning that the general public that voted for in majority for medical marijuana would hold it against local politicians who voted down the dispensaries…..now I cannot accused this commissioner of being one of those who opposed it, because he has not changed his mind on the issue, as he was for it all along…….however, I wonder if this is the REAL reason it is being brought up once again to reconsider “modifying the ban”…..

  10. Now I think I have a better understanding of why it is not allowed to be sold at regular drugstores, like CVS, or Walgreens, for example. What I got out of the city attorney’s talk was that in order to accept insurance like at the regular drugstores, it would have to be federally approved, and the dispensaries are not federally approved but state approved…..so now that kind of answers the questions that I and others had.

  11. I had heard before at the council that you could not pay for the meds at the dispensaries with a bank credit card from a federally insured bank. Not allowed……But now I heard on this audio that the dispensaries, or at some, will have an ATM machine inside for the usage of getting cash advances either on your bank card, or your credit card and then use the cash for the purchases…..Wow, what business wouldn’t love an all cash business? As long as you have an armored wagon heavily secured with armed pickup people to pick up the bags of cash…..that is.

  12. I made my mind up for it, in favor, a good while back when I saw that little young boy that was suffering so many ailments of a serious nature, on tv, and his mother was pleading for help as to his needs of the medical marijuana oil to help with his seizures he suffered. She showed a pantry closet full of regular meds that he had to take regularly, at an extreme cost! It was pitiful how the child looked, and that child died before the lawmakers could make up their minds. It is true……

  13. If there is anything that can alleviate ill people’s suffering, I would approve of it, as I don’t like to see people suffer at all from medical issues. Can the marijuana go recreation and be approved? Yes, it can, it is possible. All aspects need to be carefully considered before someone jumps so quickly…..just saying…..!!!

  14. So the joke told on the audio was: A drunk intoxicated on alcohol runs through the stop sign, and the guy intoxicated on marijuana, stops at the stop sign and waits on it to turn green…..uh huh…now wasn’t this from one of the marijuana experts??? LOL

  15. Correction: City is gonna get sued, big time, if a K-9 drug sniffing dog bites a patron coming or going into a dispensary…..city is gonna get sued if they don’t approve the dispensaries, as it violates property owners rights as a landlord of rental businesses ….others gonna sue the city, if they don’t get their medical marijuana, as it is their constitutional right according to the state’s constitution. I guess the trial lawyers are smilin’!

  16. Are they going to allow billboards advertising the medical marijuana dispensaries in this city if they are approved? Lots of questions regarding the marijuana dispensaries. I long for the way Apopka used to be, and not what it is becoming!

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