Saturday, October 16, 2021

Brechnitz Seeks to Avoid Divisive Marijuana Debate

Council Chair Erik Brechnitz. |Photo by Steve Stefanides

At the September 16 Marco Island City Council meeting, Board Chairman Erik Brechnitz suggested that council place on the agenda of an upcoming meeting a discussion regarding a possible recreational marijuana ordinance. That conversation would involve creating an appropriate city ordinance and amendment to the Land Development Code, which would prohibit the sale of recreational marijuana within the city.

On June 16, 2014, Governor Rick Scott signed Senate Bill 1030, which is now known as the “Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act.”  However, Collier County and the City of Naples have never approved the licensing of dispensaries, which is their right. The City of Marco Island is the only such outlet within the county for medical marijuana, should a dispensary be constructed. That may all change in 2020 after the November elections when new commissioners take their seats in Collier County.

Residents of Marco and the adjoining Collier County areas came forward to support the proposed referendum to allow medical dispensaries on Marco Island. They pleaded with councilors to provide them some relief from having to travel into Lee County to acquire their needed supplies.

Proponents of the sale of medical marijuana on council passed a 5-2 vote to allow medical marijuana dispensaries on the island earlier this year. The banning of recreational marijuana would not impact that vote or prohibit a potential dispensary on the island for medical marijuana. Councilors Brechnitz and Howard Reed opposed the legislation allowing dispensaries.

After the June vote to allow medical dispensaries on the island, a group of concerned citizens formed a political action committee to have their voices heard during a time period when more residents are in town, and not traveling during the summer months. Their desire is to hold a binding referendum which would approve banning the sale of recreational marijuana on Marco Island.

Board Chairman Erik Brechnitz prefaced his remarks for a conversation on the issue and possibly have council pass an appropriate City Ordinance and amendment to the Land Development Code. That legislation would prohibit the sale of recreational marijuana within the city.

“My desire here is to avoid another fractious debate within our community that would serve as a distraction during the next year ahead of us and sidetrack the good work that needs to be done,” said Brechnitz.

“Should the board choose not to do that, than I am sure the citizen committee will push forward, which is their right,” concluded Brechnitz.


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