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Palm Coast Council Looks to Regulate Potential Medical Pot, But in a Cloud of Misinformation

| June 10, 2014

palm coast medical marijuana pot dispensaries

What Palm Coast is scared of. (Pat (Cletch) Williams)

The Palm Coast City Council, at Mayor Jon Netts’s instigation, wants to get in on the pot business. Or at least get in its way as it did with pill mills and internet cafés: by imposing the sort of strictures that would make it very difficult to run a pot dispensary in the city.

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The council is looking ahead to the proposed constitutional amendment on November’s ballot that would legalize medical marijuana, as it has been in 22 states and the District of Columbia, although the Legislature this year has already legalized a form of medical marijuana for patients suffering from epilepsy, some forms of cancers and certain other ailments.

“We’ve had nationally all these discussions about medical marijuana,” Netts said in a council meeting this morning, “and I’ve noticed some cities have enacted ordinances regarding the location of potential dispensaries as if and when. Now, we took the lead several years ago in the issue of pill mills. And I’m wondering if, Mr. Reischmann, we need a separate ordinance or whether this can be folded in with that.” Bill Reischmann is Palm Coast’s attorney.

“You would need to enact an ordinance, absolutely, to create regulations,” Reischmann said, “some of which could be land use, as far as locations, others which could be regulatory. An ordinance would be necessary to amend the land development code if that was the direction that this council wanted to go regarding the potential for such establishments that would be dispensing medical marijuana. Obviously this is depending on what happens in November.”

In Colorado, which legalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana outright—whether medical or not—the state gave cities and counties the power to also ban pot dispensaries outright, and ban the growing or distribution of pot. Amendment 2, however, is written in such a way as to pre-empt outright bans of dispensaries, and gives the Department of Health the power to “regulate centers that produce and distribute marijuana for medical purposes.” The constitutional amendment specifies that the department “shall issue reasonable regulations,” and to do so “to ensure the availability and safe use of medical marijuana by qualifying patients,” which may be interpreted as to preclude cities and counties from abrogating regulatory powers. No such strictures existed regarding pill mills and internet cafés.

When it came to pill mills and internet cafés, the city first imposed a moratorium on new such establishments (at one point there were nine internet cafés either operating or getting ready to operate  in the city), then crafted regulations that prohibited new cafés from operating within 1,000 feet of a school or church and imposed an annual $1,000 “processing fee” for its business tax that would likely have been found illegal had it been challenged in court. Additional regulations applied.

Should medical pot be legalized, the Health Department, not cities and counties, would be tasked with regulating the new industry.

So far, Florida cities have not been very active in preparation for Amendment 2, which would legalize medical pot. The Tampa City Council discussed the matter two weeks ago. “I would suggest that there’s no way for us to ban that in the city of Tampa in any kind of significant way,” Tampa’s city attorney, Julia Mandell, told the council, noting that it would, in fact, be up to the Department of Health to craft rules by July 2015—and to decide what rule-making authority to leave city and counties, if any.

“I would prefer that we be proactive rather than reactive,” Netts said.

“If you have something in place before the rules are put in place, you’re in a better position,” council member Jason DeLorenzo.

Not according to the Tampa attorney, who suggested that since the Health Department holds all the authority should the amendment pass, whatever cities and counties do now could be invalidated.

“If they chose to regulate the location of the medical marijuana treatment centers, then you will be pre-empted,” Gina Grimes, a Tampa lawyer who’s been studying the potential impact of the amendment on local governments, told the council, according to the Tampa Bay Times. “But,” the article noted, “she suggested that if the amendment was meant to restrict locations, it probably would have delegated that task to the Health Department.” That silence may yet leave an opening for local governments to maneuver.

Elsewhere in Florida, the city of Mount Dora in April crafted an ordinance that would prohibit the production of medical marijuana in the city and limit its distribution to the city’s most intense industrial zoning district. Going the other way, Pembroke Park city commissioners, however, unanimously agreed to legalize and regulate marijuana. Beyond that, several cities in South Florida are having discussions on the matter and directing their staff to gather information, but no actual ordinances have been approved.

That, in essence, is where Palm Coast is today. “If council would agree I’d like to have our attorney look at this and give us some suggestions,” Netts said.

But as has been the case before when this council has talked drugs of any kind, misinformation and exaggerations were already clouding the issue.

“Has the state of Florida approved the same of medical marijuana?” council member Bill McGuire asked.

“No, this is something that’s going to come up for a referendum in November,” Reischmann said.

In fact, the Legislature has legalized some forms of medical marijuana, though if Amendment 2 passes, that measure would be trumped by the constitutional amendment.

Bill McGuire. (© FlaglerLive) palm coast city council

Bill McGuire. (© FlaglerLive)

“But due to the fact that we’re saying that it’s medical marijuana,” McGuire went on, “aren’t we assuming that a person is going to get a prescription to go get some pot somewhere? We just have to make sure that they can only buy it from an approved source.” McGuire was, unwittingly or not, closely paralleling the language of the amendment, which sets out provisions for availability as well as legality. That prompted a misleading response from Jim Landon, the city manager.

“From a policy standpoint it’s like the pill mills, that supposedly all these people that were getting oxycodone and whatever, all these others, had a prescription,” Landon said. “It’s just that they were basically had a doctor in a trailer in a parking lot that would give you the prescription then you buy it right there.”

Landon making an apples-to-oranges comparison: there was no constitutional amendment on the book specifically laying out the rights of access and dispending of prescription pills, as there might be with medical marijuana. And there is no comparison between the harm of prescription pills, which were identified as the cause of death in 2,363 Floridians in 2013, and the alleged harm of marijuana, medical or otherwise, which was identified as the cause of death in zero Floridian in 2013—or any previous year on record.

“But you’re talking about a medicine made by a pharmaceutical,” McGuire said.

“No no no,” Netts replied, “that has always been my contention, that if marijuana has a medical necessity, then Squibb or Johnson & Johnson ought to produce it, make it, sell it through a pharmacy. But no, this is home-grown.”

Netts was again mischaracterizing the issue: pharmaceuticals have opposed the legalization of medical marijuana because the home-grown potential (and actuality) of the plant is so readily accessible to individuals such as cancer or glaucoma or Parkinson’s patients, without the prohibitive cost usually associated with pharmaceuticals. There would be nothing for pharmaceuticals to produce anymore than, say, the legal status of basil enables anyone with a pot to grow it in one’s kitchen.

None of the council members talked about the potential economic development benefits of the industry being disinterred from underground and provided the power to generate state and local taxes.

Reischmann, the city attorney, then diverted the discussion to an article in today’s Orlando Sentinel, saying that a “consortium of sheriffs” in central Florida “came out against this proposal, based upon the experiences that other states in the United States that have had comparable changes, comparable examples with medical marijuana, and the impacts on the citizens in those states, this is what forms the basis for the opinions of the sheriffs.”

The article, a Q&A with Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings and Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger, quotes both sheriffs as opposing the legalization of marijuana in any form, and warning of “misapplication of what is intended.” Eslinger concedes that tobacco and alcohol are “the two leading causes of preventable death,” but then says that “adding marijuana through de facto legalization isn’t going to help us”—again mischaracterizing the documented, life-saving and life-improving benefits of medical marijuana to legions of ailing individuals.

jon netts palm coast mayor city council

Jon Netts. (© FlaglerLive)

The sheriff’s association is by no means unanimous on the matter: Flagler County Sheriff Jim Manfre has taken a more moderate view on Amendment 2, declaring himself in these pages “receptive to the medical arguments presented favoring the amendment’s passage.”

An article in The New York Times on May 31 pointed out the emerging dangers of pot-laced candy bars and two resulting deaths attributed to such candy bars, which provided arguments to opponents of legalization that the state had gone too far, and that any pot legalization would, as Eslinger was warning, “impact our quality of life.” But the article also noted that “Despite such anecdotes, there is scant hard data” on the legalization of marijuana in Colorado. “Because of the lag in reporting many health statistics, it may take years to know legal marijuana’s effect — if any — on teenage drug use, school expulsions or the number of fatal car crashes.”

“I’m not taking a position for or against medical marijuana,” Netts said at the end of today’s brief discussion, “but I am cognizant of the fact that this may become an issue and as Bill said, I’d rather be pro-active.”

“We’ll be getting you something,” the attorney said.

“And we can decide if it’s appropriate or not,” Netts said.

In fact, that decision may rest with the Department of Health should Amendment 2 pass.


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25 Responses for “Palm Coast Council Looks to Regulate Potential Medical Pot, But in a Cloud of Misinformation”

  1. carol bennett says:

    Go home Jon!! We’re tired of your shenanigans.

    • Nobody says:

      Thank you. Ban drinking that’s what needs to be banned. More deaths from drinking and driving and all that bs

  2. Shea says:

    Who wants to live in a place where the will of the voters on an amendment is denied. I am already looking elsewhere to go – watch the exodus begin…..

    • Maggie says:

      To Shea:
      The exodus has already begun. So many of us want out. Saint Johns County has the highest EMPLOYMENT and Flagler has the HIGHEST UNEMPLOYMENT. SJC has a new business every day. Flagler has one per year but two have already left. Costco begged to come in five years ago but the city manager played games with Costco and probably every other business wanting to move south – but businesses do not move to Flagler. County and City governments see themselves as employers, I see them as communists. I am Maggie

  3. Dennis McDonald says:

    This headline is right on point…”But in a Cloud of Misinformation”.

    The “Cloud” is where the City Council and Manager ALL make their home base of operation. The Red Light Camera debacle sucking millions out of our local economy that we are stuck with for five more years immediately reinforces that fact. Ask yourself are you any safer ? How about any Poorer ? This coming month will have the only SECOND birthday for resolution 12-644 adding 37 MORE RLC to our fair City. Did we really need this scar ? Landon and the Council did not need to do all this to fund the new city hall, all they had to do is just raid OUR utility Fund again !

    Here’s the scary part in Mayor netts own words…“And we can decide if it’s appropriate or not,” Netts said.

    Vote November 4th and decide if they are “appropriate or NOT”.

    Opinions from the New Palm Coast.

    Dennis McDonald

  4. Rick Belhumeur says:

    Flagler Beach was also advised by its attorney that they could not ban medical marijuana sales throughout the city. Last month the city commission did revise their existing land use/zoning ordinance with the following language:

    Non-medical Marijuana Sales and Cannabis Farms shall be prohibited uses in all zoning districts of the City. Medical Marijuana Dispensaries shall be a prohibited use in all zoning districts of the City except Highway Commercial. Medical Marijuana Dispensaries shall be allowed as a special exception use within the Highway Commercial zoning district upon application, hearing and approval as provided in this code of Ordinances.

    Considering that the city has very little Highway Commercial confined to a area on SR100 west of the bridge, this revised ordinance doesn’t totally ban the sale of medical marijuana but it keeps it out of all other areas of the city.

  5. Gia says:

    If these darn PC gov. yoyo’s legalize that drug why not any other drug…crack. cocaine or whatever junkies need. My Lord what a world!. May be time to start looking for another place drug free.

  6. confidential says:

    Why don’t they really address real serious issues like how to come up with new ordinances to address the illegal junkyard businesses that some run out of their homes and garages showing an open eyesore to us all and devaluating our properties? How many appliances and sofas, house and lawn furniture a small home is discarding day in and day out “not being a business?”
    Also what about creating new ordinances to address the caving deplorable seawalls in our canals that deteriorate those and their neighbors costly water front lots, filling up our canals with soil interfering with navigation also creating more eyesores for us boating, kayaking or paddle boarding? If we buy a home anywhere we are supposed to maintain it within the city jurisdiction as well as it lawns… then why not to enforce the repair and or rebuild of seawalls? City needs to create seawalls maintenance and repair ordinances and within a reasonable length of time “not years” Palm Coast has 300 miles of canals and I am not sure how many of those are the salt water canals…where the seawalls caving in are the worst giving the heavier traffic. We want to wait what happened in St Augustine were lot owners had to pay $10,000 per lot to dredge 5.5 miles only, assessment in their houses taxes? Just because Palm Coast caved in seawalls allow the soil to fill up the canals?
    Also all those mostly investment/vacant/or careless dwellers homes and/or their wooden or fiber fences in desperate need of paint or pressure wash…another real eyesore. Can’t afford to maintain your home then sell it! Or get enough fines for un compliance to force the sale to someone that can maintain it. Why do we have to endure the eyesore, rodents, termites and nuisance that damage and deteriorate the value of ours? Lets do not forget that blight also attracts crime.

    • Genie says:

      I think I would have to agree with many of your comments. People don’t repair their docks, either, until they fall into the water, literally, and they are left there.

      Blight is one of the biggest problems facing Palm Coast, along with the highest unemployment in the state and rising crime.

      This is not a formula for success. We could use some new leadership in both the city and county.

  7. Jack Howell says:

    The well articulated positions of Bill and Jon, as pointed out in Flaglerlive, show just how out of focus and touch these guys really are. To say nothing about the comments of Landon! Perhaps these three need to smoke some medical Marijuana to clear the stupid in their heads. After all, “stupid is what stupid does”.

    I would suggest that before the Palm Coast wizards of the City Council launch regulatory laws for Palm Coast, they better get on the learning curve. Don’t trust the “Brain Trust” of the City Attorney! Given the history of the “wizards” I foresee that once again they will set the stage for law suits against the city.

    I’m tired of these idiots. How about you?

  8. markingthedays says:

    I don’t see what the bog deal is. Anyone who thinks “medical marijuana” translates to “I can buy marijuana freely anywhere without any regulations” must be smoking….wait what was I going to say?

  9. Genie says:

    And one last comment: You can’t park a boat or an RV in your driveway for more than 10 days but you can park 10 cars in your driveway or on the lawn or leave trash and old furniture where it is visible.

    It’s embarrassing to have to take the long way home because I don’t want my friends to see the blight on some of the surrounding streets. This kills property values and encourages crime faster than anything else.

    • ryan says:

      Shouldn’t you be focused more on real criminal activity and not trying to tell people what they can and can’t have in their own driveway? Besides, people shouldbe able to have 10 cars in the driveway during a dinner party or club meetup without having to worry about someone calling the police or code enforcement if they are not involved in criminal activity.

  10. fruitcake says:

    I’m so glad to read that these guys have nothing better to deal with at their meetings!

  11. HempStaff says:

    The Green Rush is coming this Nov! Yes on #2! Register to work in this exciting new industry:

  12. Max Awesomeness says:

    Which two deaths due to cannabis use are we talking about here?

    Oh yeah, from the linked article:

    “There is the Denver man who, hours after buying a package of marijuana-infused Karma Kandy from one of Colorado’s new recreational marijuana shops, began raving about the end of the world and then pulled a handgun from the family safe and killed his wife, the authorities say.”

    “Mr. Pongi ate marijuana-infused cookies, began acting wildly and leapt from a hotel balcony, officials said; the medical examiner’s office said marijuana intoxication had made a “significant” contribution to the accident.”

    So, did either of these individuals have mental issues before they took way too many edibles? My guess is yes, but hey let’s blame this on cannabis.

  13. Carl says:

    I can`t believe no ones mentioning the fact they had a building to use as their Town Center all along , they could of just bought the old News Tribune building and upgraded inside a bit a lot cheaper then building huge new buildings they don`t need like Bunnell did , guess you cant siphon money out of a building already built though , but if you build a few huge buildings in phases you can take hundreds of brides from many contractors, this Counsel is nothing but corrupt, and needs to go , they will make a big stink out of pot , while they are getting people drunk with their back door liquor license, what hypocrisy , Id rather have someone high on pot driving on streets then someone drunk , but like the red light cams its not about safety its about their Greed, and if your worried about your housing prices going down then the biggest crime counsel committed was changing the zoning law to allow section 8`s in houses instead of only duplexes like it used to be , I had just bought a house on Raemoor , and they built two new houses across from me they were never sold, two section 8`s moved in , I had 20 cars on street from 8am till 4am , they were selling drugs, blasting stereo`s in the back of their SUV`s rattling the covers off the florescent lights in my kitchen , robbed my house of 3500 bucks while I was out, now they are in every neighborhood driving our crime rate up , but I`m sure the city counsel got a piece of that pie from the state as well, they have totally destroyed this city, turned into a slummed police state , littered with multiple businesses they got bribes from to turn PC into a monopoly board , I mean yeah they bring in new businesses problem is…. they pay nothing and we already have two or three on the corner down the street , vote them all out two at a time if we have to ……cause they changed the year we do that so we cant get all their dirty butts out at once .

  14. confidential says:

    Genie maybe we need to take my mentioned items to a city council meeting agenda. Because those agendas are pretty busy with some no so important issues as the one’s I mentioned. The marijuana one as I can see all around us some people gardening and cultivating those for their own personal consumption. This meeting marijuana issue sounds as useless to me as: one palm tree telling the other, you better hold tight your nuts because a hurricane is approaching…

  15. Seminole Pride says:

    The Mayor is heading in the right direction, but they need to put together a solid S.O.P. Also for those of us who post not in favor. What percentage of y’all show up at the last City election ? I rest my case.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Don’t forget to legalize cocaine, heroine and crack. You liberals are required to be equivalences. Pres. obamma will be happy.

  17. IML8 says:

    All the legislation media talking about medical marijuana…. Legalizing marijuana…. All comes down to hemp..the cannabis plant. It is a injustice ….. All the good uses for such an incredible plant. Google CBD hemp oil and you will be amazed what it can do for our health. Please visit and find out more about the history of hemp and “An American Betrayal”.

  18. tulip says:

    I think that these violators should be reported by every one of their neighbors constantly to the Code Enforcement and also the PC City Council. I can’t imagine Code Enforcement ignoring a bunch of reports all on the same violation in a neighborhood. If no one reports a problem, it will continue and grow worse as others join in on violations.

  19. Enlightened says:

    Hey, Palm Coast! Wake up! It’s coming whether you like it or not. This plant has done a lot of good for many sick people. To compare it to hard core drugs like cocaine is ludicrous. It is obvious that the Mayor and his cronies have no idea what they are talking about. More research by them is needed before they can even start to think about putting ordinances in place. If you disallow the sale in the County they will just go somewhere else. Do we really want to miss out on the taxes and money this can bring into the city? Think people, use your brains! I think it’s time for much younger Mayor and city council. Your ideas are too antiquated.

    • billbobfleap says:

      Been reading up on cbd and how it seems its slowing and in many cases reverses cancer cells. IM sure this will take years of research to find out god gave us this plant with countless uses only to have large drug companies keep it in the dark and out of our hands but hey until the rich can get richer it will be illegal.

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