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Palm Coast Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017 2 years ago

In split vote, County Commission bans medical marijuana facilities

The ban will affect unincorporated Flagler County.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

In a split vote that contradicted its own previous position, the Flagler County commission voted at a meeting Nov. 20 to ban medical marijuana facilities.

The ban, which will affect unincorporated Flagler County only, was not the predicted outcome of the vote: County staff had spent months preparing an ordinance to allow medical marijuana facilities, and the commission had approved it in a first reading vote on Nov. 6.

But that Nov. 6 vote itself was divided: Commissioners Nate McLaughlin, Donald O'Brien and Greg Hansen voted to pass the ordinance allowing medical marijuana facilities, while Commissioners David Sullivan and Charlie Ericksen voted against it.

On Nov. 20, Hansen switched sides and voted with Sullivan and Ericksen in favor of a total ban on medical marijuana facilities. McLaughlin and O'Brien voted against the ban.

Hansen's concern was proximity to homes: He was in favor of a buffer between the dispensaries and single-family homes, much like the 500-foot buffer required by state law between dispensaries and schools. 

Sullivan had raised the possibility of adding a required buffer to the county ordinance during the Nov. 6 meeting. 

But county staff said that would be legally risky and could have unintended consequences. 

Under state law, counties and cities can decide to ban medical marijauana facilities entirely, but if they decide to allow them, they can't treat them any differently in zoning than they treat pharmacies. 

There are few commercial lots that are 500 feet from any homes, and the county, if it added a required buffer, would have to ban pharmacies from those spots, too, county staff told commissioners. 

"It seems to me if we did something like that … it in effect would be a ban," Hansen said at the meeting. 

County Administrator Craig Coffey said that was true. 

And if the ordinance, by requiring the buffer, has the effect of a ban, County Attorney Al Hadeed said, the ordinance could be deemed exclusionary and subject to legal challenge. 

"If you implement the measure, you’re banning them," Coffey said. "It’s cleaner legally to just ban it."

A handful of residents from Plantation Bay urged the county to ban medical marijuana facilities, saying they were concerned that the businesses, by dealing in cash, would attract crime. 

After the residents spoke, Hansen made a motion to ban medical marijuana facilities. It passed 3-2, with O'Brien and McLaughlin dissenting.






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