Marco Island approves ballot language for ordinance banning recreational marijuana
Marco Island City Council approved unanimously ballot language for an ordinance which prohibits cultivating, manufacturing, warehousing, distributing and selling recreational marijuana.
The vote took place May 18 following the efforts of a local political action committee to get enough signatures to put the ordinance on the ballot.
State and federal law currently prohibit recreational marijuana.
The Ban Recreational Marijuana PAC acquired "almost twice" the amount of signatures required to move the ordinance forward, according to its Chairperson Edgar "Ed" Issler.
"I'm very proud of the committee and everybody who helped gathered the signatures because a major part of that signature gathering experience was done during this (coronavirus) pandemic," he said during a council meeting May 4.
In case you missed it: Marco Island 'banning recreational marijuana' ordinance heads to polls in August
The committee excluded from the ban medical marijuana and hemp derived products containing 0.3% or less of THC..
Vice-chair Jared Grifoni said the ordinance could have unintended consequences because it was "poorly drafted."
"It never properly defines what medical marijuana is under Florida statue," he said. "This could [...] prevent medical (cannabis) patients from getting access to their medicine locally."
The ordinance also bans marijuana delivery devices used by medical marijuana patients, according to Grifoni.
During his time at the podium, Issler said medical marijuana is defined correctly on the ordinance and that the marijuana delivery devices would be allowed if used for medicinal purposes.
"On line 30 of the ordinance it says medical marijuana 'as defined in the State of Florida Statutes,'" he said.
"As far as the paraphernalia that is used for medical marijuana, [...] if somebody was using that very paraphernalia for medical marijuana it would not apply to this land development code addition."
Answering a question from councilor Charlette Roman, city attorney Alan Gabriel said the law allows City Council to "reverse the vote" after the conclusion of the referendum.
"So it's not binding," Roman said.
Scheril Murray Powell, attorney and legalization activist, told the Marco Eagle on May 4 it is "premature" to ban recreational marijuana at the municipal level if it has not been legalized by the state or federal governments.
"If it's a constitutional amendment that legalizes recreational marijuana and it doesn't give the municipalities the ability to ban it, then their ordinance would be null and void," she said.
Murray Powell called any attempt to restrict recreational marijuana prior to its legalization a "non-ripe issue." "It means they are trying to restrict something (that) doesn't even exist yet."
Marco Island is not the only city in U.S to attempt to ban recreational marijuana.
Reporter Grace Hauck with the USA TODAY reported on Dec. 1 that since Michiganders voted to approve legalizing recreational marijuana in November 2018, "approximately 80% of municipalities in the state have opted out of allowing recreational sales in their communities."
In New Jersey, several cities banned recreational marijuana before legislative leaders announced in November of last year that recreational marijuana was heading to the polls, NorthJersey.com reported Aug. 15, 2018.
The next City Council meeting is scheduled for June 1.
Contact Omar Rodríguez Ortiz at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram as @Omar_fromPR. Support his work by subscribing to Naples Daily News.