CRESTVIEW — The City Council unanimously voted on a first reading of an ordinance to impose a moratorium on medical marijuana in Crestview.
The temporary ban would prohibit the growth, production, sale and possession of medical marijuana as outlined in a 2016 state law until Sept. 1, when a vote will be held to lift or continue the ban.
Councilman Shannon Hayes said that while state voters approved the use of medical marijuana, the state legislature failed to establish guidelines on how to properly manage the process and facilities. Hayes said he understands people with medical needs might stand to benefit, but the council must look out for all residents.
“I’m not going to have a pot shop on Main Street,” Hayes said.
Councilman J.B. Whitten agreed and said the state and several cities, including others in Okaloosa County, are still researching the issue. Several of these cities have imposed similar moratoriums, according to Whitten.
“Colorado is having all kinds of problems,” said Councilman Doug Faircloth, referring to laws in that state allowing the sale of recreational marijuana. He cited an increase in crime, an increase of DUI incidents and a negative impact to businesses near medical marijuana dispensaries.
A 2016 article from the Boston Globe gathered consensus from several Colorado state officials who claimed there had been little negative effect from the state’s laws approving of medical and recreational marijuana.
However, law enforcement officials in Colorado were having trouble updating enforcement tools with changing laws, according to the article. Specifically, police forces struggled with impaired driving incidents due to lack of proper testing.
Dr. Larry Wolk, Colorado’s top medical official in the public health department said no large, troubling health trends had emerged since legalization, according to the Boston Globe.
There is still concern from health officials in Colorado regarding effects that legalization could have on a younger generation of consumers who might be commercially exposed to the product in a manner similar to cigarettes.
Crestview’s moratorium, Ordinance 1615, would allow the Hub City to further research the possible effects of medical marijuana in the area and keep it in line with several other cities across the state with similar ordinances. The temporary ban would also allow the city to formulate a better process for regulation.
Council members took a step toward combating a different kind of weed at their Jan. 9 meeting — blight in the city.
Mayor David Cadle recommended that the council work toward a solution on code enforcement in Crestview that would limit and prevent dilapidated buildings and trashed streets. Code enforcement officers should be able to be more productive and not just reactive, according to Cadle.
“We must have the authority to remove [trash] from our city,” Cadle said.
Faircloth agreed and said this should extend to commercial properties. He cited 16 empty locations on Main Street that have fallen into disrepair, some with live electrical wiring. These locations discourage prospective business owners and don’t provide a healthy environment for residents, according to Faircloth.
“We need to clean them, or tear them down or do something,” Faircloth said.
Members of the council agreed to work toward a solution to improve the city’s image while remaining fair to business and landowners.