CRESTVIEW — An ordinance banning medical marijuana within the city passed the second reading at the Nov. 13 City Council meeting.
According to Growth Management Director Teresa Gaillard, the city would have to regulate medical marijuana treatment centers the same as pharmacies.
She provided city leaders with a map highlighting commercial areas in the city where pharmacies would be allowed. Medical marijuana dispensaries have to be regulated the same as pharmacies; therefore everywhere a pharmacy is allowed, a medical marijuana dispensary would also be allowed.
Gaillard said this ordinance would ban the centers until the state allows for a number or location rule. Okaloosa County also has the option to vote for or against medical marijuana dispensaries in the county.
"The majority of the areas that are around our particular areas … in Okaloosa County are either residential or mixed use," Gaillard said.
If the county allows dispensaries into its mixed use or business use properties, it would be able to allow a medical marijuana treatment center within Crestview as long as it’s not within city limits and is in the unincorporated areas, according to City Attorney Ben Holley. Such a facility would have to abide by a 500-foot buffer area for the schools.
"The only thing I have on it, and the only thing I’ve ever had on it, is I want something, either in state law or county ordinance or city ordinance, that says this is not your wholesale ability to legally buy buds of marijuana and walk down the street smoking it," Councilman Doug Faircloth said.
Faircloth said instead of calling it medical marijuana, the city needs to call it "the derivatives of marijuana that are medicinal," as he is in support of people with illnesses using cannabis oil.
Councilman Shannon Hayes said he is in support of the ban, because there are still too many unknown variables and the state hasn’t given the city direction. Hayes said Crestview "doesn’t want another Colorado on their hands."
According to City Clerk Betsy Roy, a temporary moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries will end Dec. 1. The new ordinance will take effect that same day, banning medical marijuana facilities in Crestview until the state can "get their act together."
According to Councilman J.B. Whitten, the council has researched the subject and attended topical workshops and a symposium with the Florida League of Cities. Whitten said he had many concerns with the legislation, including the need for more police training to be able to better assess DUIs.
"First and foremost, this is not a permanent ban," Whitten said. "This is a ban with a built-in monitoring system to address at a later date, if needed. Monitoring is needed because although many think all the guidelines are in place in the state, right now there is a current bill in the House that would change this to say that smoking would be permitted — right now it’s not."
The bill Whitten references is one filed by Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Fort Lauderdale, on Nov. 2. Farmer filed a proposal that would undo a ban on patients smoking medical marijuana. The bill is filed for consideration during the 2018 legislative session, which starts in January.
However, House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, an Estero Republican, told the Associated Press the House won’t go along with allowing cannabis to be smoked.