Town of Orchid to ban marijuana dispensaries

The small, affluent Town of Orchid joined other Indian River County municipalities, as well as many other governments across the state, in prohibiting medical marijuana dispensing facilities within their borders, with a unanimous “yes” vote at its Tuesday Town Council meeting.

The exclusive community of approximately 450, residing on almost 2 square miles of the north barrier island, followed Indian River County, Vero Beach and Fellsmere in the pot ban. The draft ordinance had passed its first reading Oct. 3.

The move amends Orchid’s Code of Ordinances land development regulations by adding a new section, 46-7, “Prohibiting medical marijuana treatment center dispensing facilities within the boundaries of the Town of Orchid.”

Medical marijuana has proven therapeutic benefits and its use, as stated in The Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative (Amendment 2) was approved by some 70 percent of Florida voters in November 2016.

In spite of that overwhelming mandate, the Florida State Legislature this past June ignored the will of the vast majority of voters and, after months of controversy, passed the restrictive Medical Use of Marijuana Act, severely limiting local government’s control over dispensary locations, while giving them the choice of either allowing dispensaries anywhere a pharmacy can be placed, or banning them altogether.

County municipalities, with the exception of Sebastian, choose the latter, citing grave concerns that the state law wouldn’t allow local government sufficient control over dispensaries, and the possibility of increased law enforcement issues in and around dispensary locations.

“Given the stark choices, the board decided to go with banning,” County Attorney Dylan Reingold stated at the time. “The board wouldn’t have prohibited the dispensaries if the state would’ve given them more control. We wouldn’t be able to control (the dispensaries) if they’re near churches, residential districts or too close to each other.”

Vero Beach City Manager Jim O’Connor has said, “We don’t like that the state law will allow them in any commercial zone. We feel this is a new industry that needs more regulation.”

Fellsmere City Manager Jason Nunemaker said that, with other Treasure Coast jurisdictions banning dispensaries, “We were concerned about the impact it would have on the city if we were one of the few areas that allowed them. I don’t think we’re prepared for it.”

We considered the issue very carefully,” then-Sebastian Vice Mayor Andrea Coy stated. “The voters overwhelmingly voted for marijuana. Why would politicians try to deny the voters’ will?”

In Vero Beach, the only exception to the ban is a facility that had been permitted before the prohibition went into effect and was “grandfathered in.” On Tuesday, the City Council gave a unanimous vote of 4-0 to ban any new dispensaries, according to O’Connor. 

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