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In Reversal, Flagler Beach Will Allow Medical Pot Dispensaries, Limiting Them to Mainland

| August 10, 2017

The Flagler Beach City Commission unanimously agreed to a compromise that will open the city to medical marijuana dispensaries, limiting them to the mainland. (c FlaglerLive)

The Flagler Beach City Commission unanimously agreed to a compromise that will open the city to medical marijuana dispensaries, limiting them to the mainland. (c FlaglerLive)

“Oh boys,” was how Flagler Beach Commission Chairman Jane Mealy introduced this evening’s second reading of the proposed ban of all medical marijuana dispensaries in Flagler Beach.

In mid-July Mealy had led the vote to ban the dispensaries. Tonight, she proposed a reversal: approve dispensaries, but limit them to certain commercial areas only–the “highway commercial” zone of the city on the mainland only, not on beachside, along State Road 100.

In November, when Amendment 2 legalizing medical pot passed, “we wanted dispensaries in highway commercial,” Mealy said, “and I think if we did that with pharmacies, we’d be OK with state law.”

Mealy was influenced by Palm Coast’s decision on Tuesday to start welcoming medical pot dispensaries starting in fall. She had previously feared that if Flagler Beach were the only local government opening its doors to dispensaries, it could be overrun by them. That’s no longer a possibility. She was also influenced by Palm Coast’s decision to limit its dispensaries to certain zones, by effectively banning pharmacies from certain zones as well.

The law the Legislature wrote a few weeks ago gives local governments two choices. Either they ban all dispensaries in their city limits, or they permit them just as they would pharmacies. In other words, they would have to treat them as legitimate, medically oriented businesses that may not be segregated or discriminated against.

“It’s a fairly basic ordinance,” Drew Smith, the city attorney, said of what he would have to write to replace the proposed ban.

And just like that, what had seemed like one of the most divisive issue on the Flagler Beach commission’s plate this year very quickly and amicably was resolved into what commissioners agreed was a workable compromise. The proposed ban was voted down, 5-0.

“I’m glad you guys have come up with that because I was going to veto,” Mayor Linda Provencher said: had she vetoed a 3-2 vote, the commission would have needed a fourth vote to override her veto and maintain the ban. So in essence even if the 3-2 vote for the ban had held, Provencher would not have let it be enacted. Earlier this week she said that she did not like the commission going against such a large segment of voters on a constitutional issue.

On July 13 the commission voted 3-2 to impose the ban. Commissioners Mealy, Marshall Shupe and Joy McGrew voted for the ban. They did so mostly by laying blame on the state Legislature, even as all three said they’d voted for the legalization of medical pot when the constitutional amendment legalizing it passed with more than 70 percent approval last November. They argued that the Legislature gave the city no room to maneuver.

The three commissioners didn’t want to be so restricted. Mealy claimed that if Flagler Beach were to allow dispensaries while other governments in the region did not, it could draw up to 50 dispensaries in the city, which she didn’t want to see. She presented no evidence for that possibility. Nor did she explain why 50 medical pot dispensaries would–aside from representing a potential business boomlet for the city–be more nefarious than pharmacies, ice cream shops or nail salons.

Other commissioners’ opposition was similarly clouded in assumptions rather than evidence. Commissioner Rick Belhumeur voted against the ban, as did Kim Carney, even though Carney also thinks the Legislature has overreached.

On Tuesday, the Palm Coast City Council agreed to open the city to medical pot dispensaries come fall, thus erasing Flagler Beach’s fear that it would be the only city in the area permitting them. The three commissioners who’d voted for the ban were each interviewed in turn after the Palm Coast decision, and all three said that while Palm Coast’s change was significant, it was not necessarily what would decide how they would vote this evening. But they were clearly wavering–more so Shupe and Mealy than McGrew, who this evening maintained that she was uncomfortable, but not opposed to Mealy’s proposal.

“I do not believe that it’s fair upon us as a commission to vote to have it because the state has kept us” from governing as the city wants to. “But I’m glad it’s come up this way. I’m in favor of what’s come up right now.”

Carney spoke in support of the proposal and of having dispensaries in the area. She said she doubts that Flagler Beach itself will get one, but she hopes the county or Palm Coast gets a couple.

When Mealy opened the floor for public comment, the first person to speak, from a full house in the commission’s chamber, lambasted commissioners for “still restricting what 70 percent of the people here voted for.” She was critical of the compromise, saying it was not what voters had asked for. She was followed by another resident who echoed the same thoughts.

“Do you realize they just lifted the ban?” Provencher asked.

Yes, but “it’s the will of the people,” the resident insisted–to have the dispensaries anywhere. But the criticism in this case was misdirected: just as the commission in July had been critical of the Legislature for tying its hands, it is now the very same law that was enabling the commission to reach a compromise and open the way to dispensaries locally.

Other speakers were more supportive of the compromise, though by then it was clear that the many people who’d come to the meeting, their speeches sharpened for the occasion, were exhaling: a lot of adrenaline was going to waste.

“I feel like you guys listened t us,” one resident said.

“I think you’re listening to us, but you’re not listening perhaps enough,” another said.

Eric Cooley, a business owner in Flagler Beach, had a different take. He cited the growing number of businesses coming to town. With that in mind, he said, “we are zoning pharmacies into a very, very small area,” he said, “over a very big piece of land. I’m viewing this as a short term concession but it’s going to generate a long-term problem.”

As for the previously approved ban, on first reading, it’s dead. The new ordinance is expected to be presented to the commission in September.

“Ordinances can always be changed,” mealy said as she spoke to one of the residents, suggesting that, down the line, even the compromise could be liberalized.

“This is just the beginning folks, this is here to stay, it’s going to change over time,” Belhumeur said. “If this is the way we can get this through without it being banned, then I’m all for it.”

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11 Responses for “In Reversal, Flagler Beach Will Allow Medical Pot Dispensaries, Limiting Them to Mainland”

  1. Theresa Boyd says:

    I think a few of the people that spoke were too harsh against the commissioners. They obviously put a lot of time and energy into this decision. They listened to the people who spoke two weeks ago, did more research and came up with a solution. That is what we elected them to do and I am proud of them.

  2. Kathy A says:

    Just curious, which types of physicians will be able to write prescription orders for medical marijuana?

  3. Trailer Bob says:

    Funny how it is OK to kill yourself, or others, with alcohol, but talk about weed like it is some dangerous poison. And cigarettes??? On, those are really health…right? I do not feel it is the governments business if I smoke pot or not, regardless of weather I need it for medical purposes or not. It is a weed that grows all by itself, just requiring water an sun. Oh well, hopefully things will change and I won’t have to have cancer to take a toke. Alcohol on the other hand…I enjoy it, but understand that it is far more damaging than any puff could ever be. Carry on folks…

  4. Sw says:

    Whats wrong Commissioners worried about next election arent you.,should be

  5. Michele R says:

    Any Dr who has taken the certification classes. There is a list on the government website you can look up to see if your primary care Dr is certified

  6. JasonB says:

    Not to worry Bob, this genii is out of the bottle … this year you’ll have to have cancer to get weed, by next year it’ll be menstrual cramps, and the year after that a hangnail will hook you up ..

  7. Dave says:

    Physicians are already giving out medical marijuana recs. In south Florida they are in full swing, not waiting,they are collecting the taxes and taking charge,unlike palm coast and flagler beach tip toeing and walking on egg shells, Flagler County Officials YOU CONTROL your own destiny ,not the state!

  8. John dolan says:

    If Pharmacies already dispense far more powerful drugs than thc why do we need to have special dispensaries and more government intrusion into our lives? Politicians you are not doctors or patients,who gives you the right to decide?

  9. Dave says:

    JasonB you don’t need cancer for Florida’s medical marijuana, you just need a debilitating ailment that you and your doctor agree marijuana would help more than hurt, which is basically anything you can think of from a past pain injury to migrane headaches, don’t be so naive people , any one who wants it can go get a card no problem

  10. Anonymous says:

    it took the fear of her votes to make her change her mind after she realized she was going against the general public….too little to late–I will still vote against the entire current council next time around-fresh change

  11. Smarterthanmost says:

    It’s obvious this group of people can run a government, much less a household. Clearly they all need to be replaced at the next election.

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