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Why Osceola County approved medical marijuana dispensaries

Posted on Monday, February 26, 2018 at 10:23 am

By Viviana Janer

 

In 2016, the voters both statewide and here in Osceola County overwhelmingly approved a state Constitutional amendment to allow the use of medical marijuana. And last week, the Osceola County Commission approved an agreement to permit three medical marijuana dispensaries in Osceola County. Unfortunately, the road to legal and limited facilities in Osceola has been made more difficult by our state Legislature.

After the original passage of the Medical Marijuana Constitutional Amendment by voters, legislators in Tallahassee tried to derail its success. They had to hold an expensive special session last summer where they passed a law specifically designed to thwart the will of the people. In this law, they dictated that local governments could not regulate where marijuana dispensaries could be located or limit the number allowed. In short, we would have to ban them or have them everywhere. They did this as a “poison pill,” trying to force communities to opt out. Conservative legislators knew that local governments would not want to allow dispensaries near schools and other incompatible locations, nor would they want to become a destination for dozens of marijuana establishments. This was a way for Tallahassee to hinder the approval of local dispensaries, while still obeying the letter—but not the intent—of the Constitutional amendment.

Fortunately, the Osceola County Commission had acted quickly last year after the passage of the amendment. Prior to the adoption of the Legislature’s bad faith bill, the County Commission adopted an ordinance regulating where dispensaries could be located and limiting the overall number of dispensaries in the County. Because your County Commission acted promptly, our control over local dispensaries is “grandfathered” and we are able to permit a limited number of dispensaries in the county. This also helps the residents that reside in the cities of Kissimmee and St. Cloud as both cities were compelled to ban medical marijuana dispensaries. However, now all Osceola residents will have appropriate access to medical dispensaries without risking either cities development objectives or disrupting our communities that could otherwise suffer from a massive proliferation of dispensaries.

Why has the county taken this step? Fundamentally, because we want citizens to be able to get the medicine they need. There is no great financial incentive to the county; per state law, we are not allowed to tax medical marijuana. At the same time we want to protect our local businesses. Although I imagine that there may be some businesses that will be unhappy when a dispensary locates near them, by controlling the overall number of dispensaries the county will be limiting their impact.

It seems likely that public acceptance of marijuana will continue. There is already talk of a recreational marijuana amendment being placed on the 2020 statewide ballot. But because of your County Commission’s practical actions, here in Osceola we’ll have a prudent, regulated approach to allowing medical marijuana dispensaries. Despite Tallahassee’s best efforts to interfere, suffering people in our community will have access to medicine without Osceola becoming a marijuana destination.

 

Viviana Janer is the Osceola County commissioner for district 2.