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Overriding Medical Marijuana Users’ Pleas, and Voters, Flagler Commissioners Pass Dispensary Ban

| December 18, 2017

Patricia Freytag holds up an object to show Flagler County Commissioner what a medical marijuana product looks like.

Patricia Freytag holds up an object to show Flagler County Commissioner what a medical marijuana product looks like.

Setting aside pleadings from people who asked them not to override the will of voters and an overwhelming vote to legalize medical marijuana last November, the Flagler County Commission this evening voted 3-1 to ban dispensaries in the unincorporated portions of the county, saying that Palm Coast and Flagler Beach will allow them, and therefore make medical pot accessible.


Nate McLaughlin, the lone dissenter in the vote, then used that reasoning against his fellow-commissioners when he said, immediately after voting: “I do want to thank Palm Coast and Flagler Beach for recognizing the will of the people and showing true leadership in this area.”

“We are providing enough ability for those who actually need the marijuana for medical reason,” Sullivan said, “and the ban is the way to go.” At least for now: Sullivan’s use of the phrase “at this point” suggested he did not see the ban necessarily as final.

The vote this evening was the first of two readings of the prohibition ordinance, with another reading expected after Christmas. But it nears the end of a year-long process that has seen the commission slalom between permitting and prohibiting dispensaries, and two commissioners. Two commissioners—Charlie Ericksen and Greg Hansen—switched votes along the way, and a third, Dave Sullivan, was willing to go with permitting dispensaries if only county regulation increased the “buffer” between dispensary properties and residential areas.

But the county administration said that would be a form of discriminatory land regulation that would make the county vulnerable to lawsuits. So the administration recommended banning the dispensaries outright as a legally safer way to go, ironic though the approach may prove to be in light of Amendment 2 in 2016, the constitutional provision legalizing medical marijuana that 71 percent of voters across Florida approved. (Several people at this evening’s meeting, including at least one commissioner, claimed 75 percent of Flagler County residents voted Yes on Amendment 2: that’s not correct. The proportion in Flagler was 71.2 percent, according to Supervisor of Elections documents.)

Palm Coast and Flagler Beach approved ordinances that narrowly limit dispensaries to the same commercial zones where pharmacies operate. Flagler Beach won’t allow them beach-side, restricting them to State Road 100 on the west side of the bridge. Palm Coast will allow them on Palm Coast Parkway, State Road 100 and Old Kings Road.

But many of the people who addressed the commission this evening said access was important even if it was a matter of shaving off a few miles. For opponents of dispensaries, at least dispensaries nearer to their homes, the matter of access was not an issue if dispensaries were to open in Palm Coast or Flagler Beach. As it is, unincorporated Flagler County has not a single pharmacy, forcing all unincorporated residents to get their medicines either by mail or by traveling to nearby towns that have pharmacies.

Fifteen people addressed county commissioners tonight—six to implore commissioners to impose the ban, and nine to ask them not to. Patricia Freytag had driven in from New Port Richey, another from Gainesville, to add voices to supporters of dispensaries.

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“This is what I’m doing now,” Freytag said. “I was kind of thrust into it. Two years ago I was taking 33 pills a day, including 45 milligrams of methadone. I’m now a medical marijuana patient and I take one pill a day. The quality of my life has gone up 500 percent. I have done more in the last six months than I’ve done in the last 15 years.” She said she represented the half of Florida residents who are over 50 and to whom access is important. “If I was living in this county I would have to pay $40 every time I wanted a delivery from a dispensary, unless I ordered more than $100 worth of product. I’m on disability. I can’t do that.” She then held up a small vial to show commissioners what medical marijuana looks like, and to make the point that it’s not “pot” or plants but an extract grown and processed under controlled and secure conditions, where crime levels are lower than around liquor stores and pharmacies. She told commissioners that they’d been “misinformed” and had a “lack of education” on marijuana issues.

She had been preceded by Alan Sanaford, who read from an often-cited but severely misleading 2014 CNBC news article that purports to show a spike in marijuana-business-related crime in Denver, based on an analysis conducted for the news organization rather than on independent numbers. Denver police disputed the findings, which are contradicted by other and more recent sources.

But so went the hearing before commissioners, with people who have experienced medical marijuana on one side and others who—despite voting for the amendment in many cases—spoke more speculatively of anxieties based on presumed crime or other problems they claim dispensaries will bring. One resident of Plantation Bay—where opposition to dispensaries was concentrated and made a strong effect on Hansen and Sullivan—asked a question and answered it, but without evidence: “Where are those people who need medical marijuana? Very few in unincorporated areas.” The resident was followed by a woman from St. Johns Park in western Flagler who was a medical marijuana user and who’s caring for a terminally ill friend, also a patient on medical marijuana—but who has to travel to Edgewater to get supplies.

Another resident of Plantation Bay who said he’d voted for legalization of medical marijuana said it was “unacceptable” that marijuana dispensaries could be located within 50 feet of residences. He was followed by a woman from Gainesville, which has its own dispensary, who asked commissioner whether they’d ever seen one, and noted they look just like medical offices—and close in early evening. On it went, including the man who spoke of his son serving 14 tours of duty in Iraq and now having to deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. “Dad, I killed women and children, I killed kids younger than my son, how am I supposed to live with that for the rest of my life?” the man’s son had asked him recently. He’s coping with medical marijuana.

Ericksen before his vote said that if he were confronted with “firm facts” he might change his mind, but for now he saw no reason to vote to legalize dispensaries in the county. It was a prepared statement, prepared before the parade of firm facts and not-so firm facts that had just been spoken to the commission.  

Commissioner Donald O’Brien, a supporter of dispensaries, was absent, but his vote would not have made a difference.

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41 Responses for “Overriding Medical Marijuana Users’ Pleas, and Voters, Flagler Commissioners Pass Dispensary Ban”

  1. Flibbertygidget says:

    This Soo wrong, people are elderly and in pain and now have to travel to another county. While our little town doesn’t get any of the jobs or income it would create. Very sad…

  2. Dave says:

    Once again or County Officials have failed the sick, the poor, the young and the old. Please prepare for lawsuits as you have some nerve depriving sick suffering residents with no transport to suffer. Could any of these commissioners even imagine what its like to live with an illness and no money? You just assume everybody can drive across a county to get their medicine. SICK SICK SICK!! STOP THE SUFFERING

  3. John Russell says:

    It is a shame that the Commissioners can not do research for themselves and learn the truth about This plant’s history. They can only go by what has been fed to them in the past by previous politics and main stream news.

  4. Flatsflyer says:

    I don’t understand how the banning of a legally Constitutional Right is legal? What’s next? Will some City or County ban fire arms, ban people’s right to vote. All of the Commissioners who voted for the ban should be removed from office!

  5. Mm patient says:

    Flagler county will always be nothing more then a junkies heaven!the lawyer’s judge’s police commission are nothing but a bunch of prescription junkies.we all know this for a fact.welcome to the junkie paradise!!!!

  6. terminus says:

    All these people with issues about MJ dispensaries have no problem about places selling alcohol and cigarettes near schools and homes. Give it a rest with the MJ hate. It really helps the people that need it. For goodness sake’s, it’s not like they are selling cocaine, heroine, xanax, valium, lithium, and so on. The pharmacy is a far more dangerous place than a medical MJ dispensary. Stop watching Reefer Madness and read some scientific and sociological studies about how medical MJ helps people with cancer, anxiety, seizures, etc., and does not create crime.

  7. Trailer Bob says:

    So people with no experience with regard to marijuana are making all the decisions…great!
    They sound like a bunch of old men who are tasked with building a house, but have never even used a hammer or a drill. Just freaking mind blowing. At least Nate tried.

  8. Anonymous says:

    This is the first smart decision I have seen this board make. When the majority of the people in the county live in the city limits, there is no reason to have dispensaries in the unincorporated areas of the county–where there is LESS law enforcement presence. Since Palm Coast is the majority of the county and most all people in the county do go go to Palm Coast for their needs everyone’s needs can and will be met since the cities are offering dispensaries. It is no surprise that McLaughlin was the only commission opposed…he goes with what will sway the public support to his reelection and not for what is best for the county as a whole. Besides, he lives in the City of Palm Coast so why would he really care what is happening in unincorporated areas of the county—HE DOESN’T! Look how long it took for him to get people in Daytona North/Mondex the necessity of drinking water. The people have let it be known that they received pallets of OLD drinking water while they were waiting, and they waited longer than they should have had to. The basic necessity of drinking water should have been a urgent number one priority and there should have been no wait considering the small amount of money it cost to get us what we needed.

    The dispensaries should be in city and public buildings where there is more security and the presence of people to avoid crime. Good job Sullivan, Hansen, and Ericksen.

  9. Instigator says:

    Interesting thread. I was just refered to a doctor in JAX for Medical MJ. I have been taking Oxycontin for perpetual pain from a rare disease that surgery just made worse. Been taking it since 2002. A friend in Colorado sent me some THC gummy bears. My God what relief!. Anyway, SO I called this doctor and the initial visit to get your MMJ card is $250. Then every 70 days it’s another $200 a visit to re up. This is not counting the cost of the medication. Because MJ is a schedule 1 drug NOTHING is covered by my ample insurance. Who can afford that on social security? So poor people have to suffer, pill up, or buy it off the street and risk arrest?? See you at the Polls.

  10. Sarah says:

    Thank goodness the commissioners had some backbone and stood by their vote. That was a joke having to listen to people from out of the area. This is not about the pros and cons of the use of medical marijuana. This is about where is the proper place to have such businesses. People can go to Palm Coast and Flagler Beach. No one is being denied of anything except maybe investors wanting to cash in!

  11. knightwatch says:

    Always remember…Radical former Ronald Reagan Assembly Republicans who control the Commission do not care what the voters want or need. They only care about their radical beliefs, their frightful ideology, their “my way or the highway” system of governance.

    Vote sensible citizens onto the Commission in November 2018.

  12. stemwinder says:

    Vote them out!

  13. Can't believe it says:

    If 71.2 percent of the people voted for the medical marijuana bill, then 71.2 percent of the people will likely vote against these commissioners in the next election. And consider all the other lame decisions being made by this group. I hope you are looking for new jobs. Because you are all but gone. And your biggest blunder is refusing to get rid of Craig Coffey as county Administrator.

  14. Wild Child says:

    Vote their dumb ASses out!!! Especially Mc Glaughflin…Lived here for over 40 yrs..3rd hose built-in Palm Coast…and also have owned business in Flagler County…the ignorance and stupidity will never stop….why?

  15. Tim says:

    Not only are the failing sick people they are failing the residents of the county. The revenue that could be generated in taxes, jobs etc by making this accessible in the county is sky high. Volusia can get the business.

  16. john says:

    By listening to all the pot-heads at the meeting yesterday, one would think that pot is the new cure-all (snake oil?). As soon as I arrived, I immediately recognized all the proponents even before they spoke. Some came from different counties, mostly renters, with nothing to lose. Is recreational pot far behind ? I think not, it is the liberal way of decadence. Maybe we all should create a public place where, these losers can do their drugs of choice and then maybe have a group hug. Maybe we can even provide them some stuffed animals along with some therapy.

    What befuddles me is that some of the speakers said they actually voted for these pot dispensaries, but yet they don’t want them in their back yard. So, I ask, why did you vote in favor of this? What are we legalizing in our county next? Prostitution? Go-Go bars? Heroin Dispensaries. It goes on and on. This is how a community deteriorates, with the constant inundation of immoral, liberal ideas that everything and anything goes.

    I know of people that have received prescriptions for pot without having ailments. I agree with Mr. Ericksen, when he pointed that there is not enough information on this subject to make an intelligent decision. Scientist are sounding alarms on vapor cigarettes (causing lungs fungal irritation), why are we rushing to legalize pot?

    What these people want is to get high without getting in trouble.

    Thank you Mr. Hansen, Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Ericksen for your courage in voting against it.

  17. Wishful Thinking says:

    100 year Flagler County centennial celebration cake sitting at the rear of the Commission chambers while the ignorant nosy body out of towners were insulting our 3 intelligent commissioners who voted on a ban suggested by their own county attorney

    Imagine – 100 years without a pharmacy for any medication…. 100 years without a Trauma Center,….. 100 years without a maternity facility -( not even in the tax exempt fancy hospital… and not a complaint)- until now. Nate McLaughlin who doesn’t have a back yard of his own says he is VIOLENTLY against the ban….which ban will protect those who DO HAVE A BACKYARD from having an all cash 24/7 pot dispensary 50 feet from their homes – which is 50 feet less than McLaughlin’s supporters will have to keep a 100 foot distance from the voting precincts when he is up for re-election…

    Someone tell me why it’s okay to have any all cash business 24/7 just 50 feet from your backyard but you can’t campaign for the candidate of your choice on election day one foot closer than 100 feet from a voting precinct.
    No you can’t fix stupid and it is nothing short of stupid to not understand that the BAN is Not for the use of medical marijuana at all – it i

  18. Rick Kang says:

    This was an excellent vote because with their location they can easily be monitored by law enforcement so that ALL of us can be SAFE!

  19. FlaglerFemale says:

    Can’t wait to vote these folks out of office. When the majority of people tell you what they want and then you blatantly go against those wishes, you have absolutely no right to sit in office. Vote out something that will help people who are suffering under the guise of “increased crime” and then vote in “affordable housing” that has historically been proven to increase crime and deflate the economy in the surrounding community including property values. Take a lesson from DeKalb County, GA!! Sounds like someone may be receiving kickbacks! Don’t get too comfortable in your seats!

  20. Claire says:

    How ridiculous some of the speakers sounded. Apparently marijuana is the answer to all ailments and incurable diseases. What pot does is ALTER the mind. If some of you think that drinking is bad, why are you okay with pot? Most of the speakers are not even from our county. What nerve! These people’s concern is obvious; their own drug habits. They couldn’t care less about the community and its homeowners.

    It’s funny that some of the comments made here are about voters’ rights and what voters want. We also voted Trump into office, so why are so many resisting? To them, voters only have a say when radical liberals say so.

  21. Claire says:

    Yeah, right…I bet you think that votes only count if they are from democrats. You must also be one of those people with TDS. Such hypocrisy. Smoke another joint.

  22. Dave says:

    John, legal prostitution is a great idea and very progressive, it’s nice to see others with some good ideas, and Claire, a smaller percentage of people voted for Trump, not more

  23. Mmsupporter says:

    John – heroin dispensaries? We already have those, theyre called pharmacies! It’s pretty apparent that you have no education in medical marijuana and the amount of healing it can provide. Would you rather have a bunch of opioid addicted people living in your neighborhood? Without medical Mary Jane that’s what you’ll get a discount probably already have. It’s a shame that those who think like you do have no education on the matter and would rather assume marijuana is such a horrible drug when throughout the ages it has been proven to be a “wonder drug”. But narcotic medications like hydrocodone and oxycontin are given out like candy and do nothing but create addicts and you seem to be ok with that or rather you would prefer that over MM. Get your facts straight before commenting on something you know nothing about.

  24. Layla says:

    Dave, not in this county, not in this state….unless of course you are from out of town. Bussing them in now, are they? Trump swept the elections here.

  25. Layla says:

    @Instigator, I am sorry to hear of your experience but am not surprised. I have read this is the case. Those getting rich off this are the growers and those selling, and they are making some BIG money. Your insurance will not cover the extremely high cost of the drug. Have also noticed an ad running in the classified section of the News Journal everyday asking you to call for a card with no doctor needed. There is a lot going on here most of us are not aware of. Who is making money off this? Doesn’t look like an affordable option to me, but as usual, somebody is cashing in big time.

  26. Dave says:

    It’s a great big world out there Layla, at the same time ,it’s a small world after all, of course issues in this small town effect thousands of family members across the world, and I don’t believe there was a sweep in Flagler County, are you saying no percentage of residents voted against him?

  27. I be Erudite says:

    @Tim,

    Do you realize the new state law does not allow for the taxation of medical marijuana? Please inform yourself before posting.

  28. Really says:

    The power of suffrage should compel the masses to vote these people out.Ya cant fix stupid set in the ways closed minded folk

  29. Anonymous says:

    Sounds like medical pot is nothing more than a sham and scheme to get money any and every way they can.

  30. Layla says:

    Dave, nope, I am not. I am saying the majority here did. He won. You can call the elections office for the numbers.

  31. Edith Campins says:

    Vote them out.

  32. Claire says:

    It’s obvious by reading some of these rabid posts, that pot is already doing its job of altering brain receptors. I read a lot about this subject, not only what is conveniently favorable, but how it affects the brain. Being against pot use does not mean we are closed minded or uninformed, it means we are still in favor of sanity, safety, responsibility and good moral judgment, which seems to be lacking in pot users. Some of you are even in favor of Prostitution in Palm Coast. That shows how your mind works. It’s a shame that we have to deal with this nonsense in Palm Coast. Why is it that people move into good places because they are good, and then choose to destroy it with their liberal ideas? California is a good example of liberalism running amok.

  33. Dave says:

    Claire if your suggesting legal prostitution is a bad idea, then please explain yourself. Are you not for safety of our community members? Are you not for having less disease and crime? It seems maybe your mind is the one stuck in barbaric ways of thinking

  34. Just me says:

    Flagler Beach and Palm coast HAVE passed provisions to have them inside their limits. IMO the whole “medical” pot thing IS BS. IMO its a end run around making it legal. I say make it legal like booze. Sell it in a liqueur store TAX it. IF and that a big IF its medical it then should be sold at pharmacy’s with all the other drugs along with FDA approvals.

  35. Mmsupporter says:

    Claire, you sound like the close-minded one here. Especially calling all those who use marijuana lacking of good morals and have no sense of safety, sanity, or responsibility. Those who use marijuana for medical reasons are doing so because it works for them and they’d rather not become slaves to the pharmaceutical companies by getting hooked on opioid medications. Marijuana is a plant that grows in the ground from the earth which is as natural as it gets and no chemicals needed to relieve the suffering of those who use it for that purpose. The sheer amount of people MM has helped should be proof enough that it works. I’ve lived in this county my entire life and I can tell you that the opioid epidemic is really what’s brought this place down, not pot. Would you rather have heroin addicts roaming your neighborhood? Sounds like you do.

  36. Victoria Khan says:

    Totally ludacris InHumane decision, and some equally ludacris comments by prohibitionists.

  37. Local 1953 says:

    Alcohol, cigarettes & pills are cheaper, easily accessed and kill people on a daily basis.
    But MM which can help those with chronic pain is not only costly but being made as inaccessible as possible??
    Somethings very wrong with this picture.

  38. Charles F. Ericksen, Jr says:

    Yes, Mr. Ericksen, did have a “prepared statement” ..He prepared this in advance of hopefully hearing anything that would/could change his mind on his previous vote….He read it AFTER
    hearing all speakers ,who added nothing .
    Isn’t it interesting that people outside of Flagler County can come from distant other Counties, but some locals say, they are upset, that they are being made to drive within Flagler”s ,other municipalities minus one small portion, to find their “potion” . One person actually exaggerated a users need. .
    Where are the medical facts? Who is testing this product? Who is there to assure, you are getting , something , that is grown safely..
    There is one more time left.. The second hearing/vote is yet to come..

  39. Dave says:

    Ericksen Jr, have you done any research? Or are you just throwing the same old questions that ha e been answered over and over. Research the facts before you come asking where and what they are. The answers are out there.

  40. Wishful Thinking says:

    Once again, Flagler County Commissioners voted to not allow FACILITIES that grow, dispense and sell medical marijuana in suburban UNINCORPORATED Flagler County. Palm Coast and Flagler Beach are two URBAN cities inside Flagler County where such facilities were approved. They are home also to 80% of all Flagler County residents. No one has ever complained Mr. McLaughlin that no pharmacies exist for any drug in UNINCORPORATED Flagler County.

    Nowhere on the ballot to approve the USE of medical pot was a mandatory requirement that every single city and county is obligated to provide pot shops at every corner! The ballot simply asked if you are in favor or not in favor of using medical marijuana – two choices: YES or NO .

    It is very disconcerting that so many people refuse to understand how off their wall and unfair nasty insults
    to the 3 commissioners who simply have decided that there is no necessity to approve additional pharmacies, when there has never been a need for one in the 100 years of UNCORPORATED Flagler County’s existence. As far as people not wanting any drug dispensary 50 feet on top of their homes they are totally within their right to want to protect their residential environment.

    I for one hope the 3 county commissioners do not change their mind on the second reading because it will cost them tons in legal fees so have to defend forcing any 24/7 all cash business where both the cash and the product will expose them to a detrimental quality of life as well as decrease in property value.
    Something once again Nate McLaughlin does not understand since he is a renter who can pack up anytime he wants and say ‘Ciao folks – it’s been nice’……unlike those of us who have our sweat equity and some our life savings in our homes. Mr McLaughlin has not received one e-mail since all this started in August from any resident of UNINCORPORATED county insisting on have a pot shop 50 feet from their back ( or front) door but he has seen 132 signatures on a petition and heard a dozen of HIS constituents that they either want a 1,000 foot buffer from their homes or none at all. He just doesn’t get it – or is he ‘obligated’ to vote against his constituents.. Which is it?

    Any business only 50 feet from a single family home is insane in and of itself. That is the reason for the BAN of dispensaries. Hopefully by the second reading we won’t see more out of town characters nor misinformed speakers who never read the ballot nor care to read the ballot.

    I

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