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In Flagler Beach, Palm Coast and County, More Contempt For Medical Pot

| August 31, 2017

mdeical pot palm coast flagler

It’s not pot’s Blair Witch Project. (Miguel Peixe)

In the last few weeks every local government has grappled with the new law legalizing a version of medical marijuana. It’s not been a good show. While Flagler Beach, Palm Coast and Flagler County look like they’re going to allow medical pot dispensaries before long, too many of their elected ones got there by being more patronizing than respectful of the 71 Percent of voters who approved medical marijuana last November.

pierre tristam column flaglerlive.com flaglerlive It was bad enough when they’d all unnecessarily imposed “moratoriums” on permitting dispensaries, supposedly to have time to figure out how state law would define the issue, then how to apply state law—delays less patronizing towns like Gainesville and Orlando saw no reason to indulge, which allowed them to grab a share of the dispensary market ahead of everyone else.

When three local governments came around, and after hypocritically preaching deference to voters’ will, they narrowed the zones where dispensaries will be allowed. That too is unnecessary. Bunnell, which continues to have issues with the 21st century, is choosing to ban dispensaries outright.

Bunnell aside, each local government had its advocates for complying with the law without mucking up the works. But they were outnumbered by their more heavy-handed colleagues. The problem with these elected ones is their willful illiteracy regarding medical pot, or any kind of pot for that matter. You’d think that in the age of the internet, when almost anything can be verified, debunked or—heaven forbid—put in its proper context, these men and women would spend a little more time putting in the 10 or 20 minutes it takes to demystify themselves of three generations of bunk about pot and conduct public policy from a relatively solid basis of fact. But you’d be wrong.


Reefer madness is alive and well. In the past six weeks I watched politicians on every local government board peddle all sorts of misconceptions and outright falsehoods about pot to justify their grizzled fears and their misguided public policies. I’ve yet to light up a joint in my 52 years, but these few weeks I came closer to doing so than when I was going through radiation therapy for cancer. Listening and arguing with these politicians was that painful.

At one point in Flagler Beach City Commission Chairman Jane Mealy, one of my favorite local politicians, actually said she feared that allowing dispensaries could open her city to 50 of them, if nearby cities banned them. (At the time, Palm Coast and the County hadn’t yet vaped around the issue.) Aside from the impossibility of such a scenario—market realities would tell you that Flagler Beach wouldn’t support 50 dispensaries anymore than it would 50 new businesses of any kind—the question must be asked: so what? Why wouldn’t the town revel in 50 dispensaries? They’re legitimate businesses, not whorehouses or gambling parlors, and they’d certainly be more useful than a church on every other corner, as in Bunnell. The commission eventually agreed to ban them from beachside but allow them across the bridge, which muted the outcry but doesn’t answer the question: what are these politicians afraid of?

As the discussion at the county commission revealed, where three commissioners sounded alarms, they can’t really tell you. All they speak of is personal experience and vague assumptions they can’t back up beyond anecdotal stories. That’s the case with the troika that came within a puff of banning dispensaries in the county—Dave Sullivan, Charlie Ericksen and Greg Hansen—until Ericksen, more mistakenly than intentionally, switched sides.

I asked County Commissioner Dave Sullivan point blank to show evidence that marijuana, any kind of marijuana, is either a gateway drug (it’s not) or a danger anywhere near that posed by, say, alcohol. (Any comparison between the two is actually unfair, considering that 80,000 deaths are attributed to alcohol every year, and zero are to pot, legal or not.) He said he didn’t have to show me anything, which is true, but not exactly persuasive. The reality is that he could not show me that evidence. Nor, for that matter, could he show me evidence showing pot to be more dangerous than butter, sugar, cigarettes, guns or cars. (To take just one of those: diabetes ends about 76,000 lives a year in this country. I’ve yet to see cops and politicians trying to stigmatize sugar. Most are too busy inhaling it.) But that’s another story.

Another favorite reflex against pot and medical dispensaries, this one pushed especially by cops: the dispensaries are magnet for crime, because they’re cash-only businesses. The evidence for that? A few sensationally headlined articles here and there that highlight dispensary robberies, burglaries, the odd shooting, as if dispensaries were the only places being robbed or burglarized, though homes,  cars, banks, convenience stores and other locations remain bigger targets, if numbers say anything. (The obvious solution is for the federal government to put banks at ease and let them do their work with dispensaries, but the obvious is the last thing lawmakers apply to pot policy.)

I should add a little context of my own here to preempt the usual hysteria that lashes at anyone who seems to claim that pot is not harmful or that it should be handed out to every high school student along with condoms, a sex change, a union card and “It Takes a Village.” That’s not what I’m saying. Pot is probably not a wonder drug. Thanks to our federal government’s medieval attitude about it, it hasn’t been studied properly, though its palliative benefits to many patients suffering many ailments seem beyond doubt, even to those who previously doubted. So is its benefit on its own merit: why deny the pleasure for its own sake to those who like it for the same reason that the pleasure of a good beer, a great glass of wine, a whiskey in its mid-teens is its own end.  

Like all drugs, especially the legal ones (coffee, sugar, oxycontin) the problem is not use. It’s abuse. Of course it can be addictive, though far less so than alcohol, heroin, sugar. And it can impair, though again, much less so than alcohol. It also mellows: I go through reams of arrest reports featuring a goon beating up on his spouse, his girlfriend or his children because he’s drunk. I can’t remember the last time I saw an  arrest report of a violent goon high on just pot. I’m sure it happens, but if there’s a choice between alcohol and pot, I’d rather goons be smoking than drinking.

There’s also a definition problem: it’s absurd that marijuana under federal law and in cops’ playbooks is still considered a schedule I controlled substance, alongside heroin and LSD. It’s like putting a spanking and a gunshot in the same category. Both are violent acts. That doesn’t make them comparable, or at least compatible by legal standards. That’s the sort of perspective that often goes out the window the moment cops and politicians start smoking the wrong stuff. Mention pot, and they go straight for Gehenna.

Like Jane Mealy, Sullivan at least came around, and later told me that while he still considers pot bad, at least he now understands, after speaking with pharmacists, that it can be a useful substitute for people battling opioids. Well, there is that.

But it shouldn’t have to go that far, which is not far enough when the end result is still misguided restrictions of the sort Flagler Beach, Palm Coast and the county are all adopting. The restrictions won’t shut down dispensaries by any means. Some zoning will still make room for them. But the restrictions even within some commercial districts send the wrong message: that dispensaries are a lower caste of business, which shows government contempt for the people who will use them, and that misconceptions pandering to reefer madness addicts still trump evidence.

If you’re not ready to go back to prohibition and ban alcohol, you have no leg to stand on by looking to ban or restrict pot, other than the old standby: “It’s illegal.” Yes, it is, but medical pot no longer is, and relying on war-on-drug liturgy to justify restrictions on now-legalized medical pot is like going back to Deuteronomy to justify stoning gays: you could still claim to have cruel old tradition on your side, but not evidence, certainly not justice, fairness, compassion, and so on. But Deuteronomy, like sadism, is making a hell of a comeback in our public policies. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that compassion is getting stoned, just grateful that governments are going only so far to provide the stones.

Pierre Tristam is FlaglerLive’s editor. Reach him by email here or follow him @PierreTristam. A version of this piece aired on WNZF.

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41 Responses for “In Flagler Beach, Palm Coast and County, More Contempt For Medical Pot”

  1. Johnny says:

    Well said.

  2. Sandi Sites says:

    Ha ha ha – for Flagler Beach, only allowing it “across the bridge” is tantamount to banning it in Flagler beach itself… They don’t much like crossing that bridge and would rather we on this side, stayed on this side.

  3. Jeffrey UZ says:

    Snoop dogg needs to have a concert in Flagler Beach!

  4. Mary says:

    I simply can’t believe the nerve of the idiot “lawmakers” who still don’t get the fact that Marijuana is a naturally growing plant with many helpful uses, one of which is the medical benefits for those with serious illnesses. Face it, the voters approved the sale of MEDICAL Marijuana to those who qualify medically to help combat very serious diseases and conditions, including terminal illnesses like cancer. The state and local governments have tried everything they can to interfere, subvert, and try to prevent the legally mandated enactment of this very important amendment. Who the heck are these “criminal elements” who will invade the city to purchase the evil weed? Let’s see…those with cancer, those with M.S., epilepsy, etc. will be lurking around those shops just waiting for an opportunity to knock you down with their walkers and canes. I challenge every idiot lawmaker in this county to come in and observe these “criminals” who struggle greatly just to get access to needed medication. My doctor told me that in reality I would not even have to go to a store to purchase my medication, because he could send the prescription directly to the dispensary of my choice and the dispensary would ship me the medication directly to my home. So you dumbbells, you can slap all the regulations on proposed dispensaries you want because in all reality all of the seriously ill patients who qualify for Medical Marijuana will be sending their dollars to other counties who actually embrace the opportunity to provide this groundbreaking medication to those in the greatest need. This county will in all ways, lose out. Just think of what that increased revenue could do for our county?? Apparently embracing the old “reefer madness” mentality is more important than helping the very ill who desperately need this medication. SHAME ON YOU!!!

  5. James Roach says:

    Excellent article! I for one will remember the obvious contempt for the voters wishes when it comes time to vote!!

  6. Whatever says:

    “They’re legitimate businesses, not whorehouses or gambling parlors, and they’d certainly be more useful than a church on every other corner, as in Bunnell. “. WOW! FLAGLERLIVE WOW

  7. The VOTERS have spoken, loudly and clearly.

  8. Keep it inPalm Coast, there is more room there for dispensaries and growing it

  9. Anonymous says:

    Pot is wrong for our county any way it is sold. This new state law should be revoked. Just like little children who will eat candy until they become violently sick, the pro pot people passed this law without care for the consequences. They are selfish and are immature in their thinking just like children who know not self control. It is all about Me!

  10. RickG says:

    Thanks for this piece Pierre. I am a 69 year old adult who has smoked pot on and off since I was in Viet Nam in 1970. It has not made me a mad man or caused any impediment to my professional career or education. It’s time to realize that this is merely a plant that grows naturally on this planet and has many medicinal, psychological, and recreational use benefits. One should be more concerned about the over use of alcohol more than what may happen with hemp.

  11. Mm patient says:

    This county is proud to be infested with pill heads and junkies. Mm is a safe alternative to dangerous deadly and addictive prescription drugs. That is why the flagler county police and flagler beach police don’t want it around.if you can go to doctor and pay $37 for a week supply of medical marijuana why would you go to a drug dealer and pay triple that?We as the ppl understand this.the police look at it less drug dealers less crime less pay less officers. Don’t let these scumbag fool you. They are the mean roots of crime.they even create crime lately. They love the fact we have a county full of junkies and pill heads. Of course they don’t want to provide easy non illegal access to a safer alternative. Mm patients or even pot heads ain’t going to rob you bother you steel from you or act like the world owes them anything. It’s these highly addictive prescription drugs that get handed out like candy .And hafe the police force is on some type of prescription pain pill.legal junkies. It’s sad.welcome to palm coast. Junkies heaven

  12. Jeff Azad says:

    sooo tired of ignorant AmeriKKKa

  13. My goodness. Stop playing God with people’s lives. So the city and Flagler county will be responsible for any future suicides. Marijuana helps with mental illness as well as many other things. It’s pretty obvious with all the suicides in Palm Coast alone, mental illness is on the rise. Turn your head or mind your damn business if you are opposed to it.

  14. Kat Birdsell says:

    U don’t need a pot dispensary in flagler, (tongue in cheek) just go see the kids selling it at the beach on the walkway. Obviously the people who got VOTED don’t listen to the voters, but what else is new?

  15. Anonymous says:

    I tell ya Pierre, you write a good article but if you really want to make a change, run for office. I think you would be surprised at the voters you get.. Right now the same growing pains are occurring across the US, Its not just little tiny Flagler County. Even in the big cities, Orange County Fl they are going through the same issues. due to the state forbids the cities from regulating the dispensaries, as each city regulates pharmacies and it should be the same. that’s a big issue. Along with the robberies that are starting to occur, Recently San Fran Aug 4 and earlier, Jun 7 San Diego, in the year Jan, Vegas. Concerns abound not just in our tiny county.

  16. tulip says:

    From what I’ve been listening to on tv and have been reading about over the past couple of years, I am of the understanding that in processing medical M, the part that makes a person “high” is removed, and the “pain killer” part left in. So if that is correct, patients that need it won’t get high, just relieved of pain, and other immense health issues. Feeling better after suffering is it’s own natural high.

    Also the weed can only be obtained by prescription for certain illnesses, so it’s not available to everyone. And if the euphoric part has been removed, those who use it just to get high will be disappointed and not want the medical kind anyway.

    I am against legalizing “social marijuana” because that is a different because people’s brains being altered all the time and not in a good way. Just read about Colorado and all the arrests and problems they have created for themselves. JMO

  17. I be Erudite says:

    You do realize there is no tax revenue because the legislature prohibits even a sales tax. All evidence of medicinal value is anecdotal and there are no FDA approved scientific studies. The FDA even under the Obama administration has never even recognized one proven use for weed as a medicinal treatment for even one medical condition. At least Colorado was smart enough to make it a cash cow for the state. They tax it at like 27%. If it is so legitimate why does someone need to be a resident of the State of Florida for 90 days in order to even get a prescription? The list of potential conditions is open ended which effectively leaves anyone who complains of chronic pain can get a script. Meanwhile, more people will be driving while mentally impaired thus putting others in danger with no legitimate means of measuring impairment. Someone could have used medical marijuana a week ago and would still test positive. If at fault in an accident that same person would have little defense and be unable to prove he or she was not impaired. The law as written at the state level is the worst of both worlds. Find a way to measure impairment and then drop the medical charade and make it legal for any purpose an adult wants to use it. My only restriction would be to do it in the privacy of the home or the company of other consenting adults. Society really doesn’t need to legislate morality but has a genuine interest in public safety.

  18. stemwinder says:

    Great article, vote them out!

  19. Antoine says:

    Power hungry politicians. Being an elected official means serving the will of the people. Instead archaic half truths and personal opinions run rampant. For shame on my generation for not standing up and voting all these people out. We’ve forgotten these people are there to serve us. I hope as Americans we remember the liberties granted to us and cumulatively we can tell the people trying to limit our freedoms to take a hike.

  20. I be Erudite says:

    Actually there will be two types offered under the State’s law. There will be full strength THC and there will be medical marijuana with THC levels so low you can’t get high. It depends on the script what product the customer will be able to purchase.

  21. I be Erudite says:

    A link to the FDA position on marijuana. FDA does not recognize any medical use of marijuana. Search for actual studies and you will see that most of them are published by marijuana advocacy groups. I fear that many patients will seek medical marijuana and receive no medical benefit while they could be pursuing more effective treatments using drugs that have undergone rigorous scientific testing. https://www.fda.gov/newsevents/publichealthfocus/ucm421163.htm

  22. John dolan says:

    Couldn’t have said it better. Stop the insanity. Vote them out.

  23. JasonB says:

    It appears that Bunnell will have to be dragged, screaming and kicking, into the 21st century.

  24. Oskar Homulka says:

    I vote and have a brother that is in chemotherapy and is prescribed medical marijuana. After speaking with him I believe that MM does ease side effects of chemo as well a lessens the pain of the cancer itself. I,and many others will not vote for any one running for office that does not adhere to the wishes of the voting public. I don’t care if you did a good job in the past, you’re not doing a good job now. You can’t BS a Bs’er so quit your fake outrage and sip your martinis. Thank you.

  25. Dave says:

    I Be , you must be able to see what’s real, compounds in marijuana have been proven to attack cancer , it’s disturbing people don’t knw the difference between real and fake on the internet, Sick Children need this medicine and the officials in Flagler county have decided to deny their constitutes this simple medicine that works on almost every ailment at a fraction of the cost.

  26. I be Erudite says:

    Dave, I sent a link to the FDA website. Please provide your scholarly source that’s backed by science and not merely anecdotal evidence. Not saying their is no medicinal value only that it’s not scientifically proven. I accept climate science because I still have some measure of faith in government scientists. I accept the position of the FDA who is staffed with doctors and scientists far smarter than you or me. I read yesterday that a University study claims empirical evidence that ecstasy (MDMA) has been proven in clinical trials to be a great treatment for PTSD. Therefore if it’s true should we jump on the medical MDMA bandwagon?

  27. Dave says:

    I be, I will get the links for you, and if you want to knw the truth about ecstasy,yes I do, actually in oregon and california right now psilocybin(magic mushrooms) have legislation to become legal and this will happen sooner than you think, I think ecstacy would make a great tool for therapists and def bring families closer together, here is a link for cancer research and cannabis from The National Cannabis Institute
    https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/patient/cannabis-pdq

  28. I be Erudite says:

    Dave, I would absolutely expect that from the marijuana lobby. NCIA is the only national trade association advancing the interests of the legitimate and responsible cannabis industry. That is the headline from their web site. As I said, quote me science that isn’t bought and paid for by an advocacy group.

  29. Mr Chris says:

    I have never heard it explained why MM needs its own dispensary. Why can’t the existing pharmacies handle the distribution? I’m not against MM but I don’t remember having oxycodone on a ballot. I am suspisious of the motivation of the supporters.

  30. Living with Lupus says:

    Wow I can’t believe people could actually deny and ban something that could save my life.

  31. Living with Lupus says:

    Could change my whole life it it was legal

  32. anon says:

    The FDA goes by whether or not pot is illegal or no. Plus the FDA is run by chemical/GMO pushing corporatists who don’t want ANY of their massive profit$ lost and won’t allow any competition in. Some of the FDA leaders used to work for Monsanto, which created frankenfoods like GMO corn (food, syrup, starch, cereal, oil, etc.in everything), GMO soy (soybean oil, soy, canola which is a variation made from soy, etc. in everything including canned tuna with WATER, GMO Wheat (gee I wonder WHY suddenly ever since GMO Wheat has hit the market the past few years here everyone has gluten intolerence?), GMO beets (sugar), GMO papaya and more. Monsanto’s GMOs were created to explode an insect’s stomach when the bug ate the plant – any part of it. Just imagine what consuming an intestinal-exploding/damaging plant product like corn, soy or wheat is doing to OUR insides (i.e. acid reflux disease, IBDs, stomach and intestinal cancers). Then their friends in the pharmacy industry come out with their IPOS to create ‘treatments’ for these GMO-caused diseases.

    Marijuana is naturally grown. Sadly, if it continues to become legal, the GMO corporatist monsters of the world will find a way to ruin it too.

  33. I be Erudite says:

    Just a hypothetical but should commercial airline pilots be allowed to use medical marijuana on a daily basis? Perhaps after they got off work and had a period of maybe 8 hours before piloting a plane again? If your answer is no, then consider all the folks who may get full strength medical marijuana, use it on a daily basis, and then “pilot” their cars on our roadways. That is all…

  34. Dave says:

    I don’t see why airline pilots couldn’t have a relaxing smoke after a long day of flying. I can’t think of one single reason why they shouldnt, just like someone can have a glass of wine or a few beers after work.

  35. Mm patient says:

    So you think it’s it’s better to pilot a plane on morphine methadone and other high strength prescription medication?marijuana will never get you as “high” as any narcotic prescription medication. I’d personally rather the pilot have the munchies then nodding out at 50,000 ft.

  36. I be Erudite says:

    Dave and MM patient. I’ll address both your comments:

    Dave, there is no scientifically validate method to measure impairment in human beings based upon levels of THC found in the bloodstream. Indeed a daily MM user would test higher for THC in their blood even a week after last using marijuana than is legally allowed to drive a car in states where even recreational marijuana is allowed. So when that pilot crashes a plane with hundreds of passengers he or she would be automatically suspected of being impaired and responsible for the crash.

    MM patient, the FAA prohibits pilots from flying duties for any medicine that would impair their abilities to safely pilot a plane. This includes not only the time they are actively using narcotics or other “high strength” prescription medications as you describe, but also for a period of time thereafter to ensure there is no impairment. Any pilot on long term medications that impair piloting abilities gets medical grounded. This makes your comment irrelevant. My point is that anyone using medical marijuana on a regular basis should never drive a car because first they are likely going to be impaired and second if they are not impaired they have no legal or scientific method to prove they were not. This sets them up for civil and criminal liability. Same as if someone uses prescription opiates and causes a crash. The difference is that in the case of the latter, impairment is established or disproven by the level found in the bloodstream.

    Readers: Some folks would say medical marijuana is a gateway drug. No evidence really supports this assumption but I would make a reasonable argument that medical marijuana is a gateway path to gain social acceptance with the ultimate goal of full legalization for recreational usage. Make up your own minds on the merits of medical or full legalization. I could care less what someone does with their own body. It’s really no one else’s business even if it harms the individual. This freedom ends when it comes to causing harm to another human being and I feel strongly that the risk to public safety will never outweigh the unproven need for marijuana usage until there is a scientifically validated method to prove or disprove impairment.

  37. Dave says:

    Well regardless of the outcome of a crash IF that were to happen which is a HUGE if , that really has nothing to do with your question or statement, you asked if I would be ok with a pilot smoking in between 8 hour shifts, my answer is yes, I could honestly care less about the inability to test it in his system accurately, if anything, thats just another bonus thrown in by our good lord with this miracle plant, you can not control other people’s conciousness

  38. Mm patient says:

    They should ban all narcotics. Then pills are dangerous deadly and addictive even when used as prescribed.

  39. Mm patient says:

    Most ppl against mm are pro pills

  40. Joe says:

    Strong pain killers are addictive. They are more similar to herion than marijuana.
    I smoke weed once or twice a year. I get more addicted to beer than weed.
    My significant others has stage 4 cancer. She would benefit from marijuana.

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