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Ending Uncertainty, Palm Coast Will Welcome Medical Pot Dispensaries Starting In Fall

| August 8, 2017

medical pot dispensaries palm coast

Coming to a Palm Coast near you. (© FlaglerLive)

Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland wanted to be clear from the start as the city council discussed medical marijuana dispensaries in the city.

“What we have to do first on this council is say, are we going to ban those. I’ll go on the record to say I have zero interest in banning dispensary locations,” Holland said. She asked her colleagues if they were interested in banning them. None of them was. Not even Steven Nobile, who has previously spoken in opposition to legalized medical pot. “We don’t want to ban, so we want to move forward. That’s very clear,” Holland said.

By Oct. 17, the council is expected to approve an ordinance that will formalize limited regulations within which pot dispensaries will operate. That means dispensaries may start applying for permits around that time. The council may extend a moratorium on dispensaries through November, but that doesn’t mean that moratorium will be enforced until then, if the council also approves new land regulations by October.

Medical marijuana businesses are watching the city, poised to move in when ordinances permit. Dustin Martin, owner of Liner Source, a Eustis-based grower applying for a license to cultivate marijuana, wrote City Manager Jim Landon Monday “to know if you have any specific local zoning requirements or ordinances we need to abide by in selecting a location to dispense in your city.” The inquiry was needed for Liner Source’s application process, Martin wrote, “as they need to see we have checked for approval before any licenses will be awarded.” Told of the city’s current moratorium, Martin wrote: “We will keep an eye on these city ordinances and be in touch at the appropriate time.”

Palm Coast’s decision is not significant only on its own. It may reverberate in neighboring cities, particularly in Flagler Beach, where the city commission is considering a ban on pot dispensaries. The Flagler Beach City Commission last month passed an ordinance, on first reading, that would prohibit dispensaries anywhere in the city. The ordinance is getting its second hearing Thursday. It was a 3-2 vote, reflecting deep divisions on the council over the decision, which drew overwhelming public condemnation.

An approach that may influence other local governments.

Commission Chairman Jane Mealy favored the ban even though she voted in favor of medical marijuana when that constitutional amendment passed with more than 70 percent of the vote in November. Mealy said she wanted the ban because she feared that if Flagler Beach were the only city in Flagler permitting pot dispensaries, the city would be overrun with such shops. She didn’t want to see that.

But now, with Palm Coast making its welcome to dispensaries official, Mealy’s position has lost its principal rationale. As of last week, she said she had not changed her mind. She could not be immediately reached today in light of Palm Coast’s decision, nor could Joy McGrew and Marshall Shupe, the two other Flagler Beach commissioners who voted for the ban last month. (Flagler Beach commissioners were in a day-long budget workshop.)

On the Palm Coast council, member Steven Nobile had previously spoken harshly against decriminalizing pot (a proposal the county commission appeared ready to put forth until it died after the 2016 election). Nobile has not spoken as explicitly in opposition to medical pot, and on Tuesday, he did not oppose the mayor’s direction. The most Nobile wanted to do by way of prohibitions was to extend an ongoing moratorium on permitting pot dispensaries in Palm Coast, and only to the extent that the moratorium will give the city more time to work out a few technicalities and definitions in the city’s Land Development Code.

Click On:

That’s what the council decided to do on Tuesday. It has directed the administration to define pharmacies as being allowed only in specific districts within the city’s zoning districts, in essence imposing new restrictions on pharmacies in order to legally impose restrictions on medical port dispensaries. Specifically, Palm Coast would prohibit locating pharmacies in its more residential zones where the code currently allows pharmacies. But that change would be minor, affecting some 173 acres and few areas, leaving dispensaries and pharmacies free to open along Palm Coast Parkway, Belle Terre Parkway, Old Kings Road, State Road 100 and U.S. 1. That’s where 18 stand-alone pharmacies are located in the city right now. Eleven of those are concentrated along Palm Coast Parkway, with the rest along State Road 100 and Old Kings Road.

The law the Legislature passed earlier this year gives local governments only two choices when it comes to medical pot dispensaries. They may ban them altogether. Or they must allow their operations just as they would a pharmacy. The law is designed that way to stay in line with the notion of making medical pot accessible, without stigmas or undue interference from overbearing local governments.

“The powers that remain to local governments as far as regulating dispensaries are very limited, only a couple of options,” City Attorney Bill Reischmann said, those being building and fire code regulations. Otherwise, they must be treated as retail outlets.

“I’m OK with that, I like that, I don’t want to treat them special, we’re going to shove you out here 50 miles outside the city,” Nobile said. But he wants a “guarantee” as to where they will be located.

“The intent by the state was to give us the ability to say, when those are in need of prescriptions, it’s more access and location so you’re not driving in the middle of nowhere to go get your medication,” Holland said, “so it’s really for us to say, OK, if these pop up in our community, what’s the best location for those to be located, what makes the most sense.”

Council member Bob Cuff, who supports a more liberal approach to medical pot, was reluctant to extend another moratorium—and Nick Klufas was opposed to that extension—but Cuff was willing to go with a 60-day extension of the moratorium, as long as the administration were to fast-track what land development code changes are necessary.

“The only reason I’m reluctant on the moratorium is that I think it sends the wrong message to the dispensaries or the wholesalers that are looking for locations,” Cuff said. But he was willing to live with the moratorium. Council member Heidi Shipley was willing to go along as long as it won’t mean losing a chance to land new medical marijuana businesses for the city.

Klufas and Nobile clashed, as they now often do, with Klufas arguing against the necessity of a moratorium, and Nobile arguing for it, even as City Manager Jim Landon proposed dispensing with a moratorium and holding up applications for dispensaries administratively, if necessary, if the changes to the Land Development Code haven’t yet been formalized.

“I’d rather do it formally,” Nobile said.

The city’s moratorium was set to expire on Sept. 2. Should the council vote that way at its meeting next week, it may be extended 60 days, but won’t necessarily be in effect all 60 days. What is certain is that by fall the city will be welcoming applicants for medical pot dispensaries.

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23 Responses for “Ending Uncertainty, Palm Coast Will Welcome Medical Pot Dispensaries Starting In Fall”

  1. Lonzo brown says:

    What are the city officials on?

  2. terminus says:

    The problem is not pot, it is antiquated ideology. Marijuana is still listed as a schedule 1 drug at the government level, as one of the most dangerous, least useful of drugs medicinally. However, substances that are more addictive – Fentanyl (schedule 2), Oxy (schedule 2), Special K (schedule 3), and Xanax (schedule 4), to name a few, are listed as less lethal and more medically necessary than marijuana. I smoked pot for almost 8 years, kept my anxiety away, never had any issues whatsoever, and I never craved another substance or got so high I couldn’t function. Flash forward some time, and my doctor gave me Xanax, well he had to keep upping the dosage until I maxed out. Then we tried something else. Same thing. When I took Valium, I needed more. Xanax, I needed more. Loritab, I needed more. It became a terrible addiction controlled by doctors and big pharma. All I needed, in my pot smoking days, was one joint and I was chill, no pain, no worries, but the government and big pharma did not reap any monies and even so, it lacks the “I need more” pull of some of the “lesser” and “safer” drugs.

    At least this is a step in the right direction – now legalize marijuana 100% for medical and recreational use and remove its schedule 1status and do a complete overhaul of each drug and their DEA classification.

  3. Steven says:

    It’s time to hire armed guards to keep them dispensaries from getting robbed all the time. It’ll happen, just watch and see. Criminals obey no laws… I’m not against dispensaries as I am disabled with a severe spinal injury etc. , but I say,not near our schools and the like, and a limited number of dispensaries per our medicated population and we have to assume that our local drug stores will also dispense as well……. We have plenty of drug stores already…….

  4. John dolan says:

    Maybe rent out some place in the near empty Marketplace, not too close to Arthur Murray dance studio but closer to Dunk my Donut. Politicians making medical decisons for the Community is a standard below what I am willing to accept. See you at the voting booth.

  5. Cindy Jay says:

    Sounds like the city residents need to get rid of Nobile, if he’s clashing all the time with other members. It’s ridiculous that there’s a “moratorium”–the longer they drag their feet, the more “illegal” pot will be moved within our county borders. What part of THE PEOPLE APPROVED THIS is he not getting?

    Enough with these delaying tactics–stop making people go outside the law to get simple medicine. Open the dispensaries, ASAP. People are waiting.

  6. Dennis says:

    I was a cop in California when these dispensaries started sprouting up. The armed robberies went through the roof as it is mostly an all cash business. Good luck Flagler Sheriff’s Office. You’ll need it!

  7. GWOT Veteran says:

    Dispensaries attract criminals, as Dennis pointed out they WILL get robbed, and the customers face an increased risk getting robbed as well since they will likely be carrying either cash or drugs entering and leaving these places.

  8. Mark101 says:

    Far out man !

  9. gmath55 says:

    Will it provide 6 figure jobs?

  10. Born and Raised Here says:

    I am in favor of the dispenseries, having voted in favor of the marijuana bill in the recent election. What I don’t like his not having any professional medical people who understand what the effects of this medication will have on those who need it. They should be making the decision on setting up the marketing, and distribution of this new treatment for illnesses. Not novice city commissioners.

  11. Sw says:

    Make it available to those who need it then to those who want it legalize . Quit with the 20th Century witch hunt BS already.

  12. D says:

    A walgreens is more likely to be robbed than a dispensary…

  13. Sanity says:

    If we are talking about medical pot and it’s considered a ‘prescription’ drug, why do we need special ‘dispensaries’? Pharmacies are the place where controlled substances are dispensed.

    Looking ahead, if/when recreational use of pot is legalized, are these same ‘dispensaries’ going to be the source of product? Since the argument is always put forth that recreational pot is no different than alcohol, are we setting a precedent that these dispensaries are pharmacies and liquor stores?

  14. Robert says:

    Idea for perfect locations…across the street of the Mayor’s & Councils houses.

  15. Florida voter says:

    As terminus pointed out, there are several medicines that are more dangerous and more addictive, but are sold at regular pharmacies. Why, then, do cannabinoids require a special “dispensary?”

    The law already makes reference to the dispensaries as being treated like pharmacies, so why not allow pharmacies to sell this prescription medicine? Cannabinoids are less addictive than many other medicines, less deadly than many other medicines, have fewer and less sever side effects than many other medicines. When, then, can licensed pharmacies sell those other medicines, but not cannabinoids?

    If our own recalcitrant politicians want to keep stereotypes in mind, rather than science and public opinion, then let them at least allow pharmacies to sell the pill/oil form of cannabinoids. The only two factual arguments against smoking it deals with the medical issues regarding regulation of dosage and second-hand smoke, neither of which are an issue when it is a pill or oil.

    It is a prescription medicine.

    Let pharmacies sell cannabinoids!

  16. Layla says:

    Don’t expect your community to develop any further if this is the Mayor’s priority. I agree with Florida voter. She is adding to our problems, showing a history of bad choices.

  17. Sherry says:

    Currently. . . arcane federal regulations (DEA and FDA). . . still treat Cannabis as illegal. Therefore, it cannot be sold in pharmacies. . . and so using CASH only protects the vendors by eliminating much of the paper trail. This from The Pharmacist:

    Importance of Federal Law

    Marijuana remains a Schedule I drug under federal law. Schedule I drugs are deemed to have no legitimate medical use and have a high potential for abuse. The U.S. Constitution provides that federal law is supreme to state law.14 Generally, states may enact laws that are more stringent than federal laws, but not more lenient. A state has no power to lower this classification. So how do states get away with enacting laws legalizing the possession and dispensing of marijuana? The answer is a concept called selective enforcement. This occurs when an agency responsible for the enforcement of a law decides to not enforce that particular law.

    An earlier example of this concept was the importation of prescription drugs from Canada. The FDA stated that all drug importation was illegal, but it exercised discretion and would not prosecute individuals bringing in prescription drugs for their own use. In essence, the activity is still illegal, but the current administration chooses to do nothing about it. The caveat here is that the agencies always have the ability to change their minds.15

    The current position of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is that it has enforcement priorities for marijuana, including: “1) prevent distribution to minors; 2) prevent revenue from the sale from going to criminal enterprises; 3) prevent diversion from states where it is legal under state law to those states where it is not legal; 4) prevent state-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a pretext for trafficking other illegal drugs or other illegal activity; 5) prevent violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution; 6) prevent drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse public health effects; 7) prevent the growth on public lands; and 8) prevent possession or use on federal property.”15

    Currently, the DEA will not take any action in states that have legalized marijuana if the states agree to help with these priorities.

  18. Dave says:

    Marijuana is illegal federally therefore it cannot be controlled by the FDA and can not be sold in pharmacies

  19. George says:

    “Dispensaries attract criminals, just watch!” …So we should punish the people who need affordable treatment because criminals want to rob a cash business? Yeah, no.

    There hasn’t been strings of armed robberies targeting dispensaries making national news. There are places with much, MUCH higher crime rates than here and anarchy hasn’t erupted because a dispensary opened. Get real.

  20. David S. says:

    Open it up next to the sheriff’s office.

  21. Carlos says:

    People are you serious , the 18 pharmacies are pumping heroin based pills all over palm coast , just look at how many overdose deaths have happened in the last five years , marijuana is safer then the Advil you have at home right now , before making dumb predictions about crime going up do alittle research, pot doesn’t bring more crime pills do how about we get rid of all the pills which make you addicted and basically a heroin junkie , I love how you guys act like palm coast is such a perfect place and pot is gonna ruin it wake the hell up , all the home invasions and most of the robberies are cause by pill junkies it makes me sick to read some of these comments I feel like you people are so fake and for the cop that came from California he is a straight lier it’s been proven that crime goes down when a dispensary is put in a neighborhood

  22. Carlos says:

    So banks shouldn’t be allowed right

  23. RigidPrinciples says:

    It would be nice if the Palm Coast government wouldn’t be slow learners like the federal government, and would fully realize, that they have lost the war on marijuana. Please get out of the way of the will of the People, which is to have medical marijuana, which we all know is just a stepping stone to complete marijuana legalization…because We the People have won the war. Be on the cutting edge, and start phasing out drug dogs that detect marijuana, as that will no longer be the probable cause of a crime. Show the People that you have mastered the art of losing gracefully ;)

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