Bonita Springs Has Concerns Over Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers In Their Town

In part 1 of this article we looked at the City of Bonita Springs and it’s City Council’s efforts to preemptively regulate medical cannabis we examined how the ban on smoking medical cannabis in public was modeled after the county’s open container law. The City Council is also aiming to pass a Zoning-in-Progress ordinance for medical cannabis treatment centers, so that they can take the time to give a closer look at the issue. At the City Council’s September 17th meeting the council asked City Attorney Audrey Vance to look at the issue of medical cannabis. The City Attorney foresees medical cannabis patients from out of state challenging Florida’s medical cannabis laws.

Amendment 2 May Violate Equal Protection for Medical Cannabis Patients

In documents obtained by from the Bonita Springs’ City Clerk, pursuant to Florida’s Public Records Act, it was revealed that, “the City Attorney has concerns that the right to equal protection under the United States and Florida Constitutions guarantees that people who are similarly situated be treated alike. Should the ballot pass, the concern arises that persons from other states with established rights to use medical marijuana may ave a claim for denial of equal protection if the law of their state permits use of medical marijuana and the ballot passes.” Amendment 2 treats residents of Florida differently than other people in that only the right of Floridians to use medical marijuana is protected. It is also likely a violation of the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Constitution, and the Privileges or Immunities Clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

Dispensaries and Treatment Centers  Are Not Synonymous According to City Attorney

Other cities which have restricted treatment centers, and the City of Naples which is looking to ban them altogether, may be in for a surprise, when they find out that they may have restricted hospitals and doctors offices to the industrial district of town. Not only do these ordinances threaten free speech rights, they may inadvertently regulate or ban places that these City Councils had not intended to regulate or ban. City Attorney Audrey Vance urged the Bonita Springs City Council not to ban “medical marijuana treatment centers,” and noted that under Amendment 2, medical marijuana treatment centers could include hospitals and doctors offices. In a memo from the City Attorney to the City Council, Vance noted that, “The definition for “Medical Marijuana Treatment Center” is not synonymous with Medical Marijuana Dispensary, which is what people hear of from other states (the marijuana store). The term Medical Marijuana Treatment Center broadly defines a range of activities which includes the dispensary, the process center, the farm, but also could be a hospital or doctor’s office, including the optometrist (e.g., giving literature for Glaucoma). Given the broadness of this definition, the City should not ban Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers in and of themselves since (a) it would not be upheld where it restricted speech and (2) some of the entities falling within the definition may be entities that the City of Bonita Springs wants within its corporate boundaries, such as hospitals, doctor offices, etc.”

City to Vote on Ordinances the Day After the Election

At the Bonita Springs City Council meeting on September 17th the Council also unanimously approved a motion to draft a “Zoning-In-Progress” regulation for medical cannabis treatment centers, to help begin the process of creating medical cannabis zoning regulations. These zoning regulations would not be passed and enacted until after Amendment 2 is voted goes into effect. Previously, the City Council had considered waiting to see if the Lee County Commissioners would address dispensaries and treatment centers under a county-wide moratorium, but the City Council opted not to wait and see what action, if any, their County Commissioners would take if Amendment 2 is approved. The Bonita Springs City Council also unanimously to agree to hold off on other medical cannabis regulations until after the results of the November election. If the city’s medical cannabis smoking ban is passed and enacted, the city’s ban on medical cannabis smoking in open and public places would punish offenders of the ordinance with fines of up to $500, imprisonment in the county jail for up to 60 days, or receive both a fine of up to $500 and a jail sentence of up to 60 days. The City Council will consider the smoking ban and the zoning-in-progress ordinances at it’s meeting on Wednesday October, 15th, and if Amendment 2 is passed, will have a second reading, and face a final vote on Wednesday, November 4th.