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Not Dead Yet: County Must Formalize Medical Pot Ban By Ordinance, Giving Advocates Another Go

| November 28, 2017

County Commissioners Charlie Ericksen, Greg Hansen and Dave Sullivan say they won;t change their mind regarding a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries come Dec. 18, when they will vote on the matter again. (© FlaglerLive)

County Commissioners Charlie Ericksen, Greg Hansen and Dave Sullivan say they won’t change their mind regarding a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries come Dec. 18, when they will vote on the matter again. (© FlaglerLive)

Flagler County commissioners’ Nov. 20 vote to ban medical marijuana dispensaries anywhere in unincorporated Flagler County turns out not to have been the final word on the matter. They have to do it again. Twice.


The Nov. 20 vote, as commissioners found out this week, was merely the kill shot for an ordinance that would have legalized dispensaries in commercial areas. That day they were expected to approve an ordinance that would have allowed the location of medical marijuana dispensaries in certain commercial zones in unincorporated Flagler. They had already approved the ordinance on first reading at a previous meeting. It is very unusual that first readings are followed by reversals, but not unheard of: that’s why ordinances are required to have two readings.

And in this case, after initially getting the approval of the commission, three commissioners voted against the ordinance on second reading.

But state law requires that to formally ban dispensaries—and in contravention of a constitutional amendment legalizing medical pot last November, approved by 71 percent of Flagler voters and 71 percent of Florida voters–commissioners will now have to approve an ordinance that makes the ban explicit.

That has been scheduled for two public hearings, the first on Dec. 18. It gives proponents and opponents of medical marijuana dispensaries yet another chance to make their case before commissioners, who have themselves seesawed from approval to opposition.  

“It’s another opportunity for the 75 percent of voters who asked for this to come back and demand that we do what they asked for,” County Commissioner Nate McLaughlin, who supports allowing dispensaries, said, leaving his hopes that the commission switches course again in favor of dispensaries unequivocal. “Of course I would, of course I would. There was a vote taken and the vote of the people said this is what we want, they recognize the need for medical marijuana.”

But Greg Hansen, who shortly after making the successful motion for the ban at the Nov. 20 meeting was named chairman of the commission, replacing McLaughlin (with McLaughlin’s support) and bypassing Charlie Ericksen, a more senior member of the commission, said today he would not change his mind come Dec. 18.

“If I banned it in the unicorporated areas, who would I be harming? The answer is no one,” Hansen said, because residents would still be able to acquire medical marijuana through potential dispensaries in Palm Coast or Flagler Beach, two cities that have approved the siting of dispensaries in some of their commercial zones. (None has yet.) Bunnell is preparing to enact a ban. “So if I’m not hurting anybody by banning this, then what other considerations are there that would make me vote for it?” Hansen cited quality of life and a group of Plantation Bay residents who led the opposition to dispensaries last week, when they argued that one such business could be located too close to their back yards.

 “The bottom line was to me, I’m doing no harm, and in fact did some good, so that in my mind was the deciding factor,” Hansen said. “I’m keeping the quality of life the same.”

County Administrator Craig Coffey informed commissioners of the needed ordinance and scheduling in December through an email on Monday. “We wanted you to be armed with this information in case you are asked about it in the public,” he wrote.

Click On:


Commissioner Donald O’Brien—now the vice-chairman of the commission—a supporter of the ordinance that would have legalized dispensaries, said few people expected the vote to go the way it did on Nov. 20. “After it got passed the first reading and it went to the second reading,” O’Brien said, “a lot of people assumed it was a perfunctory matter, that it was done, so we really didn’t have anybody come speak on the pro side of it because people probably assumed it was going to be voted on like the first time.”

So only the voices of opponents were heard. “I’m hoping we get a more Flagler Beach-type flavor to it in that a lot of people come out and speak their side of it,” O’Brien said, referring to how the process went in Flagler Beach, where some members of the city commission there initially wanted to ban dispensaries outright—and carried a majority to do so. That prompted such a public outcry and a full house at the next commission meeting that commissioners reversed course and adopted a compromise, allowing dispensaries on the mainland but not beachside. (O’Brien often attends the commission meetings of other cities, including Flagler Beach, to keep up with municipal issues.)

“There’s a lot of compelling stories or arguments for the medicinal use of it and how it’s benefited people,” O’Brien said, “and I don’t think the commission heard that.”

Dave Sullivan, who’s opposed allowing dispensaries all along, doesn’t see his opposition to dispensaries as categorical. Like Hansen, he says since Palm Coast and Flagler Beach allow dispensaries, no one in the county will be denied access. (In fact, individuals may also receive medical marijuana by mail.) “I’m not going against the 70 percent, I’m saying the state enabled us to put some restrictions as to where it would be,” Sullivan said, noting that if the county administration had gone along with a 500-foot buffer between dispensaries and residential areas, he would have gone along with the ordinance. “As long as I feel we’ll have two dispensaries in the county, I’m OK with that.”

Sullivan said he would change his mind if Palm Coast were to somehow ban dispensaries. In that case, he’d consider allowing them in unincorporated Flagler. But Palm Coast has already made up its mind and voted to allow them along State Road 100, Old Kings Road and Palm Coast Parkway.

Ericksen has been a swing vote before. He equivocated somewhat as to whether he would be a swing vote again, though he is still “leaning toward” a ban, he said. “The word marijuana is pretty broad for me because I have a son who is addicted to it and I haven’t seen him in five years, and that hurts,” Ericksen said. “Not that that should have anything to do with what we do here in Flagler but it does influence me a bit.” But he also said he had his doubts about the validity of marijuana as a medicine.

Of approving the ban in the coming ordinance on Dec. 18, he said, “I want to have all the information right up to the last minute to make my decision, but I’d be leaning towards it.”

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21 Responses for “Not Dead Yet: County Must Formalize Medical Pot Ban By Ordinance, Giving Advocates Another Go”

  1. Linda Johnsen says:

    I think it’s time to “Grow Up”… I see a batch of Narcissistic guys sitting around playing with peoples
    lives. This is absolutely NOT all about you and what you think, feel and believe. Places like Colorado,
    Washington State and Oregon and California actually use the “profits” to help the homeless, Veterans
    and many other great causes…
    Think out of the box for a change. There are more worrisome things here such as pill mills, heroin usage,
    rampant crime, intense car wrecks, etc…
    I would say alcohol is the biggest issue, not medical marijuana.

  2. Dave says:

    These gentlemen in charge who are voting against Medical Marijuana, are keeping the wellness of life from so many families including many sick children

  3. Mm patient says:

    Pethitic and weak sad sorry never heard of a marijuana addiction in a average person. Weak.very weak ppl I guess can be addicted to anything. Some ppl are addicted to coffee some are addicted to alcohol some are addicted to ciggerates all three ppl have died from.lets ban coffee alcohol and ciggerates. Guess we should ban peanut butter also.sad that we must suffer because this guy Erickson has weak pethitic ppl who become addicted to none addictive things.smh.

  4. Mm patient says:

    I do agree tho that it is kinda pointless to have a marijuana dispensary that charges $37 for a quarter gram and the blackmarket value of a full gram only goes for $5 to $20 .the state got it so backwards that this limited amount of dispensaries is only going to further help the blackmarket get bigger. My medical marijuana prescription in Florida every 45 days is over $3k.and that’s at a hafe gram a day that helps me to continue to live a lot better quality of life then the pills I would have to take as a alternative if medical marijuana treatment was not possible. I go to work everyday.i take care of my family. I pay my bills.i no longer suffer from very painful muscle spasms, ptsd ,seizures just to name a few.if it was not for medical marijuana I would have to take so many different pills that I would be on disability jobless addicted to narcotic prescription drugs and be no better then a junkie .I take nothing but medical marijuana. I had very bad side affects from the medications I was taking from age 9 till 23 that was causing liver and kidney disease by 23.if not for medical marijuana I would probably be dead by now just from the awful side affects of the antidepressants and seizure medication s I was on.im sorry that some ppl look for a place to point and blame but the truth is some ppl become addicted to anything. These are satisticly the 1 out of 10 that are weak willed and would be addicted to anything anyway. If you become addicted to marijuana, you would likely be addicted to porn after watching it once,these are the 1 out of 10 that are weak willed and would be addicted to anything. We didn’t ban open because ppl become addicted to it.we didn’t ban alcohol because ppl become addicted to it,die from it ,kill because of it and hurt others because of its awful side affects, no,we understand that these are the 1 out of 10 that would be addicted to anything,it’s like saying guns now kill ppl and not ppl are killing ppl.the guns did not change,society has changed.

  5. Really says:

    Vote them out go away.

  6. RigidPrinciples says:

    To Mm — I can understand you wanting to purchase the marijuana from the dispensaries. Keep in mind we’re still in Florida, and things are a little more backwards than Oregon/Washington/Colorado. The prices are outrageous in Florida both on the black market and in the dispensaries. More than likely though, you can find someone on the black market to get you a better price. Just look at your medical marijuana card as your “get out of jail free card”. But don’t give money to the dispensaries, unless they can truly compete with the black market prices. There’s no shame in buying marijuana on the black market. Easily over half of Palm Coast smokes marijuana, especially the elderly, and especially in the nicer sections like the C section. It’s like this across the entire country. The majority either smoke, or have smoked marijuana. Only the government seems to believe marijuana is illegal. One side knows the war is over…We know We won the war. The other side seems to think the war is still going on. I don’t really even want to smoke marijuana anymore. I only do so because I know I’m allowed, and to help instill values into other, especially the children, where We inherently know it is our individual right to smoke marijuana to our heart’s content. I just couldn’t imagine being on the losing side of this war..but as you can see from David Sullivan, Charlie Ericksen, and Greg Hansen, losing a war this badly causes folks to be quite irrational, and to hold on to the little perceived power they feel they have left.

  7. Edith Campins says:

    Vote these out of touch people out.

  8. Steve Wardrip says:

    Obviously, citizens’ votes mean nothing the this band of “lawmakers”. I say we we do away with ” legislation without representation.” The people have voted and those who sit on the bench don’t like it. Tuff! You lost!

  9. tulip says:

    You look at the picture and you see 3 not particularly qualified men who are using their newly found so called “power” to exert it in any way they can, and certainly don’t seriously and open mindedly think about it from all sides first. Not a good way to “lead”

  10. stemwinder says:

    Looking forward to voting them out.

  11. Concerned Observer says:

    Commenters, please try to stay on point. This article documents three Flagler County commissioners’ vote to control where businesses involved in the sale of medical marijuana can or cannot be located within the county. The argument of its statewide legality is a done deal. It is still, however, within the commissioners’ purview to dictate where these places of business are located within Flagler County, just as they can mandate where a Walmart, Publix or Walgreens get to build their store. Their decisions have no statewide ramifications. Yes, the vote to legalize medical marijuana was approved statewide by an overwhelming margin. The vote count does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Flagler County residents. I would take a safe bet that the vote for approval was far more overwhelming in Miami-Dade and Broward County than it was in Flagler County but, admittedly, I do not have access to the specific local count. Even if it is never allowed in unincorporated Flagler County, it may very well be coming to locations (already approved?) in Palm Coast and other municipalities. Name-calling and anecdotal rhetoric on unsubstantiated medical benefits of medical marijuana really have no place here.

  12. Wishful thinking says:

    I am a staunch advocate of medical marijuana and a staunch advocate of common sense zoning which respects property rights of home owners which Flagler county staff and our own commissioner are not. I hope the 3 intelligent, caring commissioners stand firm on voting to ban a mandatory all cash 24/7 business from being approved on top of single family homes. Our own commissioner is a renter and obviously doesn’t relate to protecting the quality of life for homeowners even if they are his district constituents

  13. Anonymous says:

    Keep it out of Flagler County. People will go to where they need to in order to get it. Along with it will bring more problems and crime. It’s all about the money!!!! People buy voodoo shit and say that works too…they will believe anything they want. I’m sure if there were benefits to this our fire mothers and fathers would have known and passed that knowledge down like they did about other home remedies. If it does pass here let it be sold only in a current pharmacy or government building location. If these men are true to their word they will pass an ordinance that reflects that.

  14. Sarah says:

    I am so happy these commissioners saw the light and voted to ban these dispensaries. Has anyone even thought about the day recreational marijuana will also be allowed in Florida? Then these existing dispensaries will even be more of a problem for people living close to them. People will not be denied access! They will be able to drive to the city of Flagler and Palm Coast. This is really about money for those that want to profit off of this. It is about selling land and making huge profits. It makes no sense to build a place to grow marijuana and sell it that needs lots of security near subdivisions. Put the families first.

    Google pot shops being robbed. Colorado has had a huge problem with it. It is not about if a shop is going to be robbed it is about when. Some have been robbed 3 times in a short period of time. Many are selling their shops out of fear for their lives.

  15. RigidPrinciples says:

    Monday, December 18th, 2017 @ 5:00pm
    Board Chambers of the Government Services Building
    1769 E. Moody Boulevard, Building 2, Bunnell, FL 32110

    ^^^ Public hearing on this issue. By law, your voice gets to be heard if you’d like. You get 3 minutes to say your piece. If 1,000 people show up, they will be forced to listen to our comments for well over 50 hours ;)

  16. Mm patient says:

    You are absolutely correct. Let’s also ban Walgreens CVS mcdonalds Wal-Mart and every other place that has been robed in flagler county. Great idea

  17. Mm patient says:

    For the ignorant ppl who KNOW nothing yet assume everything
    Conventional wisdom says marijuana dispensaries make neighborhoods less safe, but a new study from UC Irvine suggests the conventional wisdom is wrong and that crime increases after cities move to close pot shops.

    “Given all the pretty strong rhetoric about dispensaries generating or at least attracting crime, it was not the result we expected,” said Mireille Jacobson, a health economics professor at UCI who studied the data with colleague Tom Chang. “But I feel comfortable saying it’s very unlikely that these places are crime magnets.”

    Dispensaries seem to behave in this respect much like restaurants and other mainstream businesses, Jacobson said, helping to deter vehicle break-ins and other low-level crimes simply by putting more bystanders on the streets.

    The study was intentionally narrow in its focus, examining the impact of widespread closures that took place on a single day in Los Angeles. So it couldn’t account for violent crimes such as murder or arson, according to Jacobson, since they aren’t common enough to show up in the window of time she and Chang analyzed.

    The study also didn’t attempt to factor in how marijuana dispensaries might impact local quality of life – either for the better, by offering alternatives to addictive drugs such as opiates, or for the negative, by increasing problems such as loitering and traffic.

    Future research on those areas is crucial before broad conclusions on how cannabis shops impact crime can be locked down, the report states.

    But Jacobson hopes her study might lead to more fact-based policy discussions as California gets ready to launch recreational marijuana sales on Jan. 1.

    THE STUDY

    Inspiration for the study goes back to 2010. Jacobson was living in Venice and noticed that dispensaries all over town were being shut down as Los Angeles attempted to rein in its massive medical marijuana market.

    The talk at the time was largely about how these stores made neighborhoods less safe, with reports by the Los Angeles Police Department that blamed crime rate increases in the mid-2000s on the city’s explosion of pot shops.

    Even today, while 90 percent of Americans support people’s right to use medical marijuana, the same polls show 44 percent said they would be “somewhat or very concerned” if a dispensary opened near them.

    A note is posted informing customers that G6, a marijuana dispensary, is no longer in the Riverside business complex after the city moved to shut all pot shops down. (Stan Lim, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
    Only one city in Orange County allows medical marijuana dispensaries, while just a handful of cities permit such shops in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. And many law enforcement agencies and policymakers cite public safety concerns when explaining their opposition to allowing marijuana activities in their boundaries.

    “This town has been a town of safety. And we’re trying with this initiative to make sure that we keep our residents safe,” said Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren just before she helped vote in one of the most restrictive cannabis policies in the state.

    Jacobson had never studied the marijuana industry before 2010. But given how tough it is both to pinpoint definite causes for changes in crime rates and to study then-unregulated dispensaries, she saw the scenario that was unfolding in L.A. as the perfect test for a simple premise.

    “If these dispensaries truly were crime magnets, we’d expect to see a sharp decrease in crime when they shut down,” Jacobson said.

    On June 7, 2010, roughly 70 percent of the nearly 600 shops operating in Los Angeles were ordered to close.

    Jacobson and Chang used data collected by the Los Angeles Times to analyze crime rates before and after shops shut down, comparing those numbers to neighborhoods where shops were allowed to stay open. Though they looked at 60 days of data, Jacobson said they limited their main focus to a 20-day window because many of the closures were temporary. Once it became clear that the city wasn’t going to enforce its ban, dispensaries started to randomly reopen.

    The professors found a 12 to 14 percent increase in property crimes within a third of a mile surrounding the shuttered pot shops. At a fourth of a mile out, they study found a 14 to 16 percent increase in crime. And at an eighth of a mile, the study found a 23 to 24 percent increase in low-level crimes once dispensaries were shut down.

    Based on those numbers, the study says one open dispensary might save the neighborhood more than $30,000 each year by preventing petty thefts.

    The Los Angeles Police Department said they hadn’t had a chance to review the UC Irvine study and so couldn’t comment on its findings. And a spokesman for the department’s union, the Los Angeles Police Protective League, declined to weigh in on how these results jive with what their officers see in the field.

    THE EXPLANATION

    Jacobson and Change wanted to better understand what caused the spike in crime after dispensaries shut down. So they analyzed the same data on another type of business that faces similar circumstances.

    When restaurants are temporarily shut down due to health code violations, the study found nearly identical increases in low-level crimes as what they saw in connection to dispensaries. The pattern suggests that it’s not pot shops in particular that help deter crime, but just about any type of business that brings more people to a neighborhood.

    It’s known as the “eyes upon the street” theory, framed in a 1961 book by urban activist Jane Jacobs. The idea is that streets are safer when more people are around to keep an eye on what’s happening.

    Related: Legalizing medical marijuana has little impact on crime – except in California, study says

    Dispensaries may have some added cushions against increased crime, the study says. They tend to have security cameras and security guards on their property. They may draw more regular police patrols. And there’s data to show that marijuana use might reduce aggressive behavior.

    Though dispensaries sell a unique product, Jacobson said mounting evidence suggests policymakers can safely regulate them much as they do other small businesses.

    “It seems to me that we don’t report on the crime at Starbucks or 7-Eleven or other businesses in the same way that we report on crime around dispensaries because people are interested in that,” she said. “It’s fine to talk about how you need to regulate dispensaries, but you don’t need to throw these scare tactics out there

  18. Dave says:

    Walgreens and CVS get robbed all the time, not to mention they sell way harder drugs than marijuana, Mcdonalds sells cancer all day to our children n residents.

  19. Wishful Thinking says:

    Amendment 2 as appeared on the Flagler County Ballot Nov 8, 2016 as received from the Flagler County Supervisor of Elections. Clearly states that the Department of Health will determine rules etc – also does not say it can be sold as Commissioner McLaughlin keeps using as his excuse to approve dispensaries on top of homes. Again the ballot had NONo. 2

    “Constitutional Amendment
    Article X, Section 29

    Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Medical Conditions

    Allows medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating medical conditions as determined by a licensed Florida physician. Allows caregivers to assist patients’ medical use of marijuana. The Department of Health shall register and regulate centers that produce and distribute marijuana for medical purposes and shall issue identification cards to patients and caregivers. Applies only to Florida law. Does not immunize violations of federal law or any non-medical use, possession or production of marijuana.

    Increased costs from this amendment to state and local governments cannot be determined. There will be additional regulatory costs and enforcement activities associated with the production, sale, use and possession of medical marijuana. Fees may offset some of the regulatory costs. Sales tax will likely apply to most purchases, resulting in a substantial increase in state and local government revenues that cannot be determined precisely. The impact on property tax revenues cannot be determined.

    YES
    NO ”

    THIS IS THE ACTUAL BALLOT ON NOVEMBER 8, 206 FLAGLER COUNTY BALLOT – AS RECEIVED FROM THE FLAGLER COUNTY SUPERVISOR OF ELECTIONS,.

    IT CLEARLY DOES NOT STATE OTHER THAN THE ‘DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH SHALL REGULATE WHERE IT CAN BE SOLD ETC…’. AND NOT A FREE FOR ALL SELL ANYWHERE AS COMMISSIONER MCLAUGHLIN CONTINUES TO BE CONFUSED ABOUT, THE VOTE WAS ‘YES’ OR ‘NO’ and not ‘WHERE’ ………….
    Once again Flagler County has never had a pharmacy in 100 years and the issue was never brought up by any commissioner in our lifetime…. until now…

  20. Sarah says:

    All you need to do is google robberies of medical marijuana dispensaries to see what an increase they have had for robberies. People have been murdered as well. There is a reason they have more security than Walmart or CVS.

  21. RigidPrinciples says:

    Actually all you need to do is actually look with your own 2 eyes. Visit one of the free states. Do you really believe everything you see on TV? I visited Oregon for several weeks over the summer. As soon as I got off the plane, I stopped at a marijuana dispensary. Bought an ounce of weed. Bought some chocolates ;) Just from the airport to the recommended dispensary, I passed over 100 dispensaries. From the recommended dispensary to the hotel, I passed over 1000 dispensaries. I did a state wide road trip, and during the 3000 mile road trip around the state, there was always a dispensary in site. Unless I was up in the mountains. It’s everywhere. There is so much marijuana it is insane. When you visit Oregon, it is obvious that the war on marijuana is over. Folks in Florida can try and fight it for a few more months…maybe a year. But no one can form a cogent argument in support of this war on marijuana continuing much longer at any level of government. Also, I smoked a big ole bong while typing this ;)

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