Why the City of Naples Banned All Forms of Medical Marijuana

The City of Naples may soon preemptively ban medical and recreational cannabis, making it the first municipality in the Sunshine State to try to prevent medical cannabis with an outright ban. Other municipalities have only gone as far as enacting temporary moratoriums on medical cannabis, or prohibiting cultivation and limiting dispensaries to certain areas, but the ordinance being considered in Naples would enact an outright ban on medical cannabis, even before Florida's low-THC medical cannabis program is implemented and before the November election, where the people of Florida  will vote to approve or reject Amendment 2, a constitutional amendment which would legalize a broader medical cannabis program.

Naples City Council Votes to Ban Medical Cannabis

Ordinance Banning Cultivation, Dispensaries, and Treatment Centers Passes on 1st Reading

At a September City Council meeting, members of the Naples City Council urged residents to vote against Amendment 2 at a September 15th workshop on the Naples cannabis ordinance. On October 1st the City Council narrowly passed it's cannabis ban 4-3 on it's first reading, the ordinance now awaits a second and final reading and vote at the October 15th City Council meeting. Earlier this year Gov. Rick Scott signed SB 1030, the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014, into law legalizing low-THC medical cannabis and CBD oil, and on Tuesday, November 4th voters will decide to approve or reject Amendment 2, a constitutional amendment which would legalize a broader medical cannabis program. The city also preemptively banned recreational cannabis and industrial hemp cultivation.

Outright Ban A Product of the Naples Planning Advisory Board

In August the Naples Planning Advisory Board had a meeting where the issue of medical cannabis was considered, but only 3 people attended the board's meeting, and all 3 spoke out against medical cannabis. Veora Little, a member of Drug Free Collier, told the board that, “Marijuana in smoked form is never medicine.” Drug Free Collier also provided 216 pages of information to the City Council. “We needed more than four days to think about it,” Planning Board Member Jim Melican said, adding, “I would like to hear people from both sides.” The board was considering 3 options, either restricting dispensaries and treatment centers to the Medical Zoning District, or restricting them to the Highway Commercial Zoning District, but the Naples Planning Advisory Board unanimously voted to recommend the City Council pass a medical cannabis ban.

Dispensaries and Treatment Centers Would Be Allowed in Medical District if Ordinance Ruled Unconstitutional

Under the ordinance, all cultivation of cannabis, including low-THC cannabis and hemp, is prohibited. Medical cannabis dispensaries and treatment centers are prohibited under the ordinance, unless the section banning dispensaries and treatment centers has been ruled to be unconstitutional or invalid. The ordinance contains a fallback provision, so that if the section which prohibits dispensaries and treatment centers is ruled to be unconstitutional, then dispensaries and treatment centers would be allowed to open up in the M Medical zoning district of Naples.

Mayor, Council, and City Attorney Believe Outright Ban Will Survive Challenges

While Mayor John Sorey, Councilwoman Dee Sulick, and Councilwoman Teresa Heitmann all wanted to pass the ordinance without provisions allowing dispensaries and treatment centers as a permitted use in the medical zoning district if the outright ban section of the ordinance was found to be unconstitutional, the council ultimately decided to include the fallback provision. “This would prevent us from being stuck and trying to figure out what to do after the fact,” Councilman Sam Saad said. “It’s just smart money. We’re covering ourselves,” Councilman Bill Barnett said.

Other municipalities around Florida have decided against an outright ban on dispensaries and treatment centers for fear it would invite someone to file a lawsuit challenging it, but Mayor John Sorey firmly believes the outright ban on cultivation, dispensaries, and treatment centers will survive legal challenges, saying, “I think we can defend it, and we should defend it.” City Attorney Bob Pritt told the City Council that, “I think you can totally prohibit this in the City of Naples because we are small, we are compact, we are basically built out and there is virtually no industrial area.”

Amendment 2 Supporters Oppose Naples Cannabis Ban, Silent at Council Meetings

Some supporters of Amendment 2 say the Naples City Council should wait and listen to the will of the people. “I think it's an unfortunate development. There are people suffering all over the state,” United For Care's Campaign Manager Ben Pollera told WBBH. “They can make a decision from an ivory tower and not necessarily consider what their constituents want,” Pollera said of the Naple's City Council and it's proposed dispensary ban.

All residents who spoke to the City Council about the ordinance at the October 1st meeting supported banning medical cannabis. Some anti-medical cannabis activists held signs with slogans such as, “Don’t Dump Dope in Paradise,” and “It’s a Trick, It’s Not For the Sick.” One Amendment 2 supporter, Gail Hayton, was in attendance at the October 1st meeting, but remained silent. Hayton's daughter, Lucy, suffers from a severe form of epilepsy called Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome. Lucy accompanied Gail to the meeting. Hayton told the News-Press that, “I want to know what’s being said, all the negative things so that I can respond to them at the next hearing.”

FloridaMarijuanaInfo.org will continue to follow the Naples medical cannabis dispensary ban, check back for part 2.a