Bradenton Beach commissioners were given the opportunity to reconsider a proposed ordinance banning medical marijuana dispensaries in the city before a final reading, hearing and vote.
However, city officials stayed their course and unanimously approved the ban.
A supermajority of voters chose “yes” to constitutional Amendment No. 2 on Election Day, Nov. 8, legalizing the use and dispensing of medical marijuana in the state.
More than 79 percent of voters in Bradenton Beach voted for Amendment No. 2 — higher than any other precinct in Manatee County.
Voters in the three municipalities on Anna Maria Island —Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach — approved the amendment with supermajority votes.
The amendment went into effect Jan. 3, though the state is working on the regulatory details.
At a Jan. 19 meeting, Bradenton Beach commissioners were prepared to adopt a proposed ordinance to ban medical marijuana dispensaries in the city.
The ordinance, drafted by city attorney Ricinda Perry, also includes a “backup” 180-day moratorium if the state repeals the right to prohibition.
Before the vote, Perry presented the commission with an email from Margaret Good, an attorney with Matthews Eastmoore Trial Lawyers in Sarasota.
In the Jan. 18 email, Good wrote she is working with Igniting Florida, a medical marijuana lobbying group, “who is working with local governments throughout the state to ensure smart regulation of medical marijuana dispensaries.”
“I am concerned because an outright ban on medical marijuana would likely not stand up to a constitutional challenge, which could leave Bradenton Beach without any regulation of dispensaries.”
Good’s email included a proposed ordinance in which the number of dispensaries authorized in a community is linked to population size. According to “the most recent census or periodic demographic studies conducted by the University of Florida,” Good said Bradenton Beach’s population would allow for one dispensary.
Good suggested the commission consider her proposal and table the second reading of the marijuana prohibition.
Perry presented Good’s request on behalf of Igniting Florida to the commission for discussion.
Perry said Good claims her proposed ordinance would withstand constitutional challenges and told commissioners they could continue the second reading to their next meeting, after they consider the proposal.
Bradenton Beach Commissioner John Chappie said he did not want to stop the commission’s plans “this late in the game.” “Do we need a dispensary?” Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon asked. “We don’t even have a drugstore here.”
“I strongly believe we need to pass this and see where it goes with the federal and state governments,” Shearon said, referring to the ordinance.
Chappie motioned to approve the ordinance and it passed Jan. 19 with a unanimous vote.
When asked Jan. 19 how residents who voted to legalize medical marijuana might react to the ban on dispensaries, Chappie said, “One would have to look at the ballot language.”
“The wording of the ballot question in no way talked about setting up dispensaries in their communities,” Chappie said. “I feel everyone should have access to medication, but that wasn’t the ballot question. So that’s not what the numbers reflect.”
When asked Jan. 19 about the possibility for residents to come forward with a referendum to overturn the ban, Perry said, “That is always a possibility.”
Reaction to the ban
“I think its bull—- that it got banned,” Bradenton Beach resident Reed Mapes said Jan. 24. “I don’t see how the commission can go against the public vote.”
Bradenton Beach resident Patty Shay agreed, saying, “Why would we want to ban it?”
Mapes and Shay voted for Amendment No. 2.
When asked Jan. 24 how a medical marijuana dispensary would affect the city, Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale said, “It would change the focus of our city.”
“The focus of the city is for tourism and families and bringing in a marijuana dispensary is going to change the look of the city — it just doesn’t fit the type of city we are trying to portray.”
Amendment 2 was heavily backed by Orlando attorney John Morgan of Morgan & Morgan, P.A., and his work with the group United for Care.
According to United for Care’s website, Morgan contributed $8 million to push for the amendment’s approval.
When asked Jan. 24 what he thought of Bradenton Beach official’s recent decision to ban medical marijuana dispensaries, Morgan said, “If they defy the opinion of more than 79 percent of voters in their city, then it’s simple — they won’t get re-elected.”
Morgan said, “If they decide to do this, then all the revenue will go to another city — that’s their prerogative, but wait and see how the people react.”
The next commission meeting will be at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 2, at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.
HB planners give nod to pot, pet sale prohibitions
By Jennifer Sheppard
Two draft ordinances that would prohibit the sale of medical marijuana and pets were deemed consistent with the Holmes Beach comprehensive plan.
The planning commission met Feb. 1 to discuss the proposed prohibition on the sale of dogs and cats and a proposal to ban the sale of medical marijuana.
City planner Bill Brisson said both proposals are consistent with the comprehensive plan, which was developed to address long-term land use programs and activities in the city.
On the proposed ordinance relating to the retail sale of dogs and cats in the city, commissioners discussed exemptions to the prohibition, including animal shelters, home-based breeders and adoptions from by animal welfare organizations.
The city is considering banning commercial pet sales after a ban was enacted in January in Sarasota County.
Commissioners also discussed a proposed ordinance that would prohibit the growing, cultivation, processing, distribution and sale of medical marijuana.
Voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2016 that allows certain individuals to use medical marijuana.
According to Brisson, the pot prohibition is consistent with the comprehensive plan because, under federal law, marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug.
But Commissioner Barbara Hines, during the meeting, said prohibiting medical marijuana sales is not consistent with good health care policy.
“I believe that medical marijuana saves lives and prolongs lives,” said Hines, a self-proclaimed non-smoker. “I don’t want to be out there on the street corner trying to figure out how to buy marijuana from some illegal source.”
But alternate Commissioner Jayne Christenson disagreed. “It’s not appropriate” to have marijuana dispensaries in the city, she said.
“This is a community and it is primarily a resort community,” Christenson said. “This could lead to other seedy-type people, unfortunately.”
Alternate Commissioner David Lester backed the prohibition.
“This is the first hurdle,” Lester said. “Knowing our commissioners. I would bet that our commissioners would not approve the sale of marijuana on this island, in Holmes Beach.”
The planning commissioners recommended both ordinances, with Hines opposed to the prohibition of marijuana.
The ordinances will go to the city commission for consideration.
A joint planning commission and city commission meeting will begin at 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 1, at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach.