As of January 3rd, 2016, the amendment titled Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Medical Conditions affected Florida. This amendment allowed the distribution and use of marijuana for medical purposes. This amendment also handed powers over to the Florida Department of Health. The amendment states that “the Department shall issue reasonable regulations necessary for the implementation and enforcement of this section. The purpose of the regulations is to ensure the availability and safe use of medical marijuana by qualifying patients.”
The 2014 Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act (CMCA) is also responsible for “overseeing the regulatory infrastructure for medical cannabis in the state” to the Florida Department of Health. The CMCA prompted the creation of the Office of Compassionate Use (OCU). This office is responsible for overseeing the CMCA with the six businesses allowed to cultivate, process, and dispense medical cannabis. Lastly, Governor Rick Scott, in the 2016 legislative session, signed HB307 allowing cultivators to grow, process, and distribute cannabis with higher tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content, also defining anything with a 0.8 or lower THC content as “low-THC cannabis.” and anything above 0.8 as “medical cannabis.” The mentioned legislation, departments, and amendment have created the proper regulations and safety checks to use medical marijuana and avoid mishandling the medical product properly.
How this relates to Osceola County.
On October 17th, 2016, The Osceola County Commission responded to the then; upcoming amendment, voted on by the residents of Florida. The ordinance further restricted the distribution and use of medical cannabis within the county itself. The law states that this is to avoid an adverse impact in the form of “offensive odors, trespassing, theft, fire hazard, increased crime in or about the medical marijuana treatment center, robberies, negative impacts on nearby businesses, [and] nuisance problems.” This statement within the ordinance assumes that most residents within the county are prone to these kinds of behaviors if left to their own devices. Where legalized, Medical cannabis has not been shown to have any natural effect on crime. According to the 2016 policy analysis Dose of Reality, by Angela Dills, Sietse Goffard, and Jeffrey Miron of the CATO Institute, states that “legalization in Washington and the opening of stores there did not produce rising crime rates across the border. Elsewhere in Oregon, we see no discernible changes in crime trends before and after legalization or medical marijuana liberalization.” This means that the Osceola County ordinance states crime as a reason to control Cannabis further, but this is a false narrative, as indicated by research.
What does this Marijuana ordinance Do?
This ordinance does hurt the residents of Osceola County and their ability to open their own business without impediment. Section 14-142. (2). (I). explains that the application for a Certificate of Approval will ask how many dispensaries an applicant has operated and how many years they have been operating dispensaries. This question automatically places most Osceola County residents behind anyone coming from states where medical or recreational cannabis is already available and much easier to establish a business in.
This application will also be left up to the “Application Review Committee” to review and recommend applications based on their standards to the county commission. This committee will be appointed by the county manager or a designee appointed by the county manager. The county manager or designee will then have the power set forth by the county ordinance to make the rules by which this committee will abide.
Any application that then passes, the rules set by the county manager or designee, and the committee will then be put forth for a vote to the county commission. Osceola County unintentionally built this bureaucratic system in a way that allows for corruption and favoritism.
It leaves the power to, in a basic sense, place any application the County Manager or designee sees fit in front of the county commission by undermining the committee through the power of setting the committee rules and appointing the committee members.
This ordinance duplicates the work done by the health department and OCU by asking for background checks of those wishing to open dispensaries in the county. This ordinance’s background checks encompass owners, investors, managers, and security personnel. It bars felons from holding any of these positions. Creating an extension of the state’s already established owner and manager background checks based on § 381.986 (5) (b) 6.
But why have this Marijuana Ordinance?
According to the ordinance, the reasons why this is needed are the same ones that have been given in the past by opponents to cannabis liberalization.
The ordinance assumes that with the liberalization of cannabis, the community will fall as crime and drug use increase. As stated before, this is not the fact, and according to the same paper mentioned earlier, the only area where a difference can be seen is in the increase in tax revenue. Another short essay is written by Gavin Ekins, Joseph Henchman of the Tax Foundation titled Marijuana Legalization and Taxes: Federal Revenue Impact states as a critical finding that “A mature marijuana industry could generate up to $28 billion in tax revenues for federal, state, and local government”. Osceola County has increased taxes in a variety of areas within the past three years. This includes a 5 cent gas tax increase and a 1/2 sales tax increase on behalf of the county school board. A new revenue stream could lead to a decrease in these taxes without the need for decreasing services.
Does it Help?
This ordinance does nothing to help the residents within Osceola County. It adds to the bureaucratic system, leads to loopholes that will allow a specific few to prosper while others suffer. The ordinance will do nothing to eliminate crime and only diminishes the possibility of the county increasing its revenue. The county must think as to what its priorities are whether to continue a failed drug war at the county level or try to further the goals of the county of maintaining a livable community where people can open a new business without the hindrance of an exorbitant tax responsibility or large barriers to entry.
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Written by Marcos Marrero