CRESTVIEW — An ordinance banning medical marijuana will take effect Dec. 1. But even though dispensaries to pick up the prescription medication won't be allowed within city limits, North Okaloosa residents may have another option to secure local access.
According to Growth Management Director Teresa Gaillard, the city would have to regulate medical marijuana treatment centers the same as pharmacies.
A city map highlights commercial areas where pharmacies are 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 says the new ordinance bans 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.
However, 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 supports 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."
A 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 further notice.
A number of residents question the City Council's statements and their intentions.
"How dare these people deny the will of the people who voted for this," Kimberly Mathis said. "Our voice should be heard! This council member should have to go face the people that need this and tell them no their lives and quality of life is not worthy... they need to be voted out of office.
"Looking at Crestview , I know they don't know what's best for us. Is there a way for the people of Crestview to go over these people to the state level?"
"Meanwhile, half of Crestview is strung out on meth, pain pills and heroin," Daniel Foster said. "This is ridiculous, [the] system is ass backwards."
"Let's deny people something that could enhance their quality of life and instead keep building McDonalds on every corner," Leslie Brown said. "We can have multiple liquor stores and a sex toy shop, but not medical marijuana which is proven to help people.
"Not only that, but the people have spoken! We said yes in an overwhelming number."
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.