Columbia County 5 Passes Medical Marijuana Moratorium: Did Anyone Read the Ordinance?
Posted December 02, 2016 11:10 am
COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Last night at the homeless Columbia County 5, County Attorney Joel Foreman's medical marijuana moratorium ordinance took center stage. The meeting was attended by only a handful of regulars. After a brief discussion, the moratorium passed unanimously. It is not clear if any of the Commissioners or the County Staff had read the ordinance, which was open ended and set no time limit on the moratorium's expiration.
As reported yesterday, On Tap at the County 5 Tonight: County Attorney Joel Foreman's Medical Marijuana Moratorium, while other counties prepared for the passage of Amendment 2, which made medical marijuana available to the public, Columbia County waited until the 12th hour to discuss the issue.
Anyone familiar with Columbia County was not surprised.
Ralph Kitchens (file)
Columbia County resident and veteran local Transportation for the Disadvantaged Board member (the coordinating board), Ralph Kitchens, was the first to address the County 5.
He said, "I oppose this moratorium. The people spoke. 19,000 voters, Mr. Foreman, in Columbia County approved Amendment 2. Two years ago, when you ran for County Attorney 5,000 voters voted for you. The way I see it, you're outnumbered about 4 to 1. The moratorium is senseless."
Your reporter, who is also a resident, told The 5 that the proposed moratorium was a regressive tax for those who were of low income and would have to drive to Gainesville to purchase their medical marijuana while "they" figured out what to do.
Sandra Buck-Camp (file)
Sandra Buck-Camp, a Columbia County resident and retired pharmacist, told The 5, "I can assure you, the people that need medical marijuana need to be able to get it in Columbia County. It is not inexpensive. Having to go out of town will be much more difficult for them."
Ms. Buck-Camp continued, "It [the Moratorium] is adding a burden to those individuals who need it and are trying to obtain it legally for true medical purposes. It's really unfair. The ordinance does not need to be in effect."
No one from the public spoke in favor of the moratorium.
Com Williams (file)
Long time Commissioner Ronald Williams said, "I don't think we have to wait six months to do what we have to do."
The only issue Commissioner Williams voiced concern about was the distance of the marijuana dispensaries from schools and churches. Commissioner Williams said he thought 1,000 ft from a school or a church was the only restriction the county needed.
"That is the only scenario I will support in this moratorium. I don't think it needs to be six months."
Commissioner Everett Phillips asked, "How long is it going to be before the state of Florida lets people in this county sell medical marijuana?"
County Attorney Foreman wasn't sure. "I'm not sure what the status is in respect to the state regulation on facilities... The moratorium relates only to land development regulations."
Mr. Foreman continued, "The idea of the six months is the County Attorney's Office, County Manager's Office - we have six months to figure out what we're going to do, if anything. If we fail to act the moratorium falls away.
Mr. Foreman was correct. The six months was just an idea, it was not in the ordinance in front of the County 5, the staff, or the public.
The County Manager Weighs In
Ben Scott (file)
County Manager Ben Scott had nothing to report regarding what he and the county staff have been doing to prepare for Amendment 2, or were doing since the November 17 meeting, where it was advised they would be researching.
Mr. Scott told The 5, "We've got to do some research on this. To simply say they are not going to be located in a certain area, we're going to have to provide some research to support our findings before we can send them to you."
Newly elected Commissioner Tim Murphy was the last to weigh in before the ordinance came for a vote, "And Ben, if this is accomplished in two or three months -- you know -- we don't know where we're sellin' it anyway."
Mr. Foreman responded. Due to the poor acoustics and the continuing decade old issue with the microphones, Mr. Foreman's remarks were unintelligible.
The title of the ordinance, as well as the entire ordinance is silent on its expiration. Columbia County's mainstream print media, the Lake City Reporter, missed this entirely.
Your reporter asked Mr. Kitchens why he walked out of the meeting after the vote on the moratorium.
Mr. Kitchens answered, "I was so disgusted I had to leave... I went to Colorado to investigate their way of doing business. The establishments are clean, well run and manned by well dressed and groomed 'bud' tenders."
Mr. Kitchen concluded, "I was going to tell them this, but when I got to the microphone, I looked at them and just got pissed off, because as usual, Columbia County is making a mountain out of a molehill."
While it doesn't say it and none of The 5, the crack county hierarchy, or the County Attorney picked up on the fact the moratorium ordinance is open-ended and never ending, Mr. Foreman had the last word after the meeting.
He said, "The moratorium is temporary in nature. I think we can do it pretty quick. We're going to get it done."