As I ended last week’s editorial, so do I begin today’s.
Let me make this point succinctly and directly.
As proposed, the Wilton Manors marijuana dispensary ordinance is unfair and unjust on one hand, downright stupid on the other.
First of all, the ordinance prepares the city to adapt to a constitutional amendment, which, if passed, will allow for the distribution of marijuana statewide, to qualified patients who meet the stringent requirements for medical use.
If the law passes, it means the citizens of our state will have voted to determine that the use of marijuana, and access to it, for medical purposes- is a fundamental, constitutional right, which cannot be legislatively abridged or legally inhibited by state lawmakers.
Accordingly, a proposed ordinance limiting its distribution to fringe locations on the outskirts of our city is likely going to be unconstitutionally prohibitive, not to mention plain dumb shortsighted. Why pass a law that will immediately be legally challenged and cost the city a fortune in legal fees?
Why pass a law declaring that all dispensaries be closed at six p.m. every night, and banning the sale of cannabis on Sundays? Do people only get sick 6 days a week before sunset? This is not making the product ‘legally accessible.’ CVS and Walgreens also sells medicines. Are they required to close on Sundays or at 6 p.m.?
What the city is doing is letting cops and law enforcement dictate the distribution of a medicine that Manors residents want available to themselves. As a matter of fact, Wilton Manors and Key West voting districts supported the medical marijuana amendment in 2014 more than any other communities in the state, with over 72 percent of the electorate voting for it. So why would a sensible politician want to even attempt to inhibit its sale locally? How many of you got that high of a vote?
The proposed city ordinance does have some sensible zoning restrictions. The dispensaries should not be next door to an elementary school. We do need security and lighting. We do want double doors to prevent odors from emitting to neighboring businesses. But the retailers selling marijuana medicinally should not be overregulated or legally inhibited from doing what they will have a constitutional right to do.
Under the city’s proposed ordinance, if an employee of a dispensary is arrested and charged with a felony, the owner of the establishment can lose his license. Come on, do you have an ordinance which allows a bar owner to lose his $150,000 liquor license in the city if one of his bartenders is charged with beating up his wife? You pass a law making you responsible for your behavior, not your employee’s after-hour conduct.
The point is this, folks. Marijuana is coming to Main Street. A year or two from now, you are going to be able to buy and sell it the way you do now a bottle of liquor. So let’s pass laws, which recognize the future that is on its way rather than the past where cannabis was a crime.
Tomorrow, you will be going into Galanga and ordering sativa infused salmon. Deal with it.
Twenty-four jurisdictions in America have decriminalized, medicalized, or legalized marijuana. Six more votes are being held this year, from Florida to Ohio to California. All the polls suggest passage is likely. Why not? After forty years of a foolish drug war, we have wrongly arrested millions of decent people senselessly and stupidly. America is finally turning a corner. So should Wilton Manors.
There are dispensaries on Broadway in Denver, on DuPont Circle in Washington, D.C., and on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood, California. They are legitimate businesses raising tax revenues for each community. The planes still run on time, and no one is being harmed. Marijuana is a medicine, which heals, not a menace which needs to be micro-managed.
The rules and regulations we pass in our cities in Florida need to be reasonable; not restrictive, sensible, not stupid. Wilton Manors, get in the game.
SFGN’s publisher, Norm Kent, is the national Vice Chairman of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, (NORML) lecturing across the country on the emerging subject.