The Marco Island City Council meeting of June 3rd would start on a somber note as Council Chairman Erik Brechnitz announced to his fellow councilors, the Interim City Manager David Harden suffered a devastating loss over the weekend, his oldest son passed away unexpectedly.
City Council took its first steps on Monday evening to permit dispensaries for the sale of medical marijuana on the island. It came with the strong support of Councilmen Jared Grifoni, Sam Young and Larry Honig.
Grifoni would make a strong case for the establishment by pointing out the council had three choices;
- Do nothing, and the dispensaries could be put in most areas of the island.
- Adopt an ordinance supporting and allowing their presence on the island.
- Prohibit them within the boundaries of the city.
If they were to do nothing, the dispensaries would have to be allowed in any zoning areas which presently allow pharmacies according to the state statutes governing their presence said City Attorney Alan Gabriel. He would further point out that they had the right to prohibit them or create a plan for allowing them in an area they chose to designate.
Zoning areas where pharmacies are allowed include C2, C4, and C5 on the island.
Grifoni would point out that 236 establishments are dispensing or selling liquor on the island and questioned the rationale of blocking the dispensaries selling medical marijuana. “There is no need to move forward with either an ordinance or a Land Development Code change,” said Grifoni. He would also go on to cite studies that showed property values might even increase.
In March of 2017, the Marco Council voted to defer action on banning the dispensaries and Grifoni would point out that an applicant would be within his/her rights to seek a permit for establishing a dispensary unless council voted to outright ban the presence of those outlets.
There are a significantly stringent set of requirements by state law governing the operation of those dispensaries. Bonita Springs is the closest dispensary to Marco Island.
He would go on to quote an unnamed study showing that real estate values in communities saw an average rise between the years 2014 – 2019 of $22,888 compared to communities that had not legalized the sales of marijuana.
Councilor Rios would question the city attorney as to the taxability of Medical Marijuana; however, the city attorney was not able to render an answer to that inquiry.
Councilor Reed would question the lack of medical studies to validate some of the claims made as to its viability as a medication. He would also point out that outside the United States and Israel, medical marijuana is not widely used. “We have enormous amounts of anecdotal evidence, versus the studies and testing done by the pharmaceutical companies,” said Reed.
Councilor Young would bemoan the fact that 70% of voters in Florida approved the referendum on the subject. “I supported this for both medical and recreational uses. It’s 2020, let’s get over it,” said Young. Councilor Honig would point out that one of the goals of the Mackle Brothers was to create a community where residents did not find it necessary to go off the island.
Council Chair Brechnitz made his points, “The question is, do you want to be able to dispense marijuana either medically or recreationally on Marco Island? Because if you carefully follow how this has morphed across the country, there are powerful interests behind the marijuana industry, and it consists of billions and billions of dollars that are not interested in having medical marijuana dispensaries. They don’t build those huge greenhouses for medical marijuana, they’re gearing up for recreational marijuana,” said Brechnitz.
He went on to point out that Canada just approved recreational marijuana and went from a zero industry to over $6 billion. “Don’t sit here and believe that we are approving a dispensary for medical marijuana. What we are doing is paving the way for recreational use and dispensing it on the island,” said Brechnitz; and is that really what we want to do? I don’t think that is what the voters voted for,” said Brechnitz.
Although some councilors wanted to have the city attorney come back with more specific information and guidance regarding the options, the vote would see Councilors Grifoni, Honig, Young, Roman, and Rios voting to allow a marijuana dispensary, with only Brechnitz and Reed in opposition.
A resolution is scheduled to come back to council on June 17 at the council’s next regular meeting.