Five Times Florida Cities and Local Officials Tried to Stonewall Medical Marijuana

Five Times Florida Cities and Local Officials Tried to Stonewall Medical Marijuana
Photo by Kristin Bjornsen
Medical marijuana is legal in Florida for the simple reason that more than 70 percent of voters wanted it to be legal. But despite that overwhelmingly clear mandate in November 2016, state legislators, like petulant kids getting hauled to the dentist, have dragged their feet on setting rules.

And some local cities and officials across Florida have done everything in their power to prevent patients with legitimate medical conditions from getting the medicine they need simply because that medicine is pot.

Here's a brief history of locals standing in the way of access to medical marijuana over the past year and a half:

1. Miami Beach Commissioner Is Sabotaging Medical Marijuana Efforts, Critics Say:
In November, 71 percent of Florida voters backed legal medical marijuana. In Miami Beach, the approval rating was nearly 80 percent. So it's bizarre that the very next day, the city voted to block dispensaries from the island for at least four months. Commissioner Ricky Arriola, who sponsored the move, says he simply wants to hit pause to allow the city more time to decide where distributors can operate.

But filmmaker Billy Corben says emails and messages from Arriola tell a different story: namely, that the commissioner is scaremongering in an effort to limit Beach residents' access to the drug.

"It’s clear that Reefer Madness Ricky is proactively attempting to disenfranchise 79 percent of his constituents who voted in favor of medical marijuana and deliberately trying to cover it up by breaking public records laws," says Corben, who acquired some of those emails through a Freedom of Information Act request.
2. Here's Video of a Miami City Attorney Comparing Legalizing Medical Weed to Pedophilia:
Reefer Madness is apparently still playing on repeat down at Dinner Key, to the point that a deputy city attorney at last night's Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board meeting insisted that — Florida voters' will aside — pot remains totally illegal.

And then he compared legalizing medical marijuana to allowing sex with children. Really!

"If the City of Miami for some infinite, god-forbidden reason thought having sex with a child was a great way to recover from some issue, and so we wrote it into our city code, just because the city says it's legal does not mean it's legal," said Deputy City Attorney Barnaby Min. "So just because for marijuana, we say marijuana is legal and the state says it's legal, until the federal government says it's legal, it is not legal."
3. Tamarac's Mayor Calls Medical Marijuana a "Scam," Doesn't Understand It. Voters be damned — according to Tamarac Mayor Harry Dressler, the medical marijuana industry is a massive fraud that his city won't be a part of. Per WPLG's Bob Norman, Dessler went on an ill-informed rant after voting to ban all dispensaries in June.

"It's a gigantic scam," Dressler said, Norman reports. "If you're looking for medical marijuana... you can get that stuff without a prescription on the internet. It comes as an oil and, I think, if I get the letters right, I think it's CBD, or CDB."

Of course, THC — the active ingredient that helps medical marijuana patients — can be found only in products that aren't allowed to be sold online. Don't tell Dressler!

4. Miami City Employee Says He Was Fired for Using Medical Marijuana:
More than 70 percent of Floridians voted to legalize medical marijuana in 2016, yet many local governments still have bizarrely hostile relationships with pot. Take the City of Miami. Despite the fact that Miami-area cops have the option to issue tickets for weed, a New Times investigation found that they're instead still arresting thousands of mostly minority residents for weed. Elsewhere, city officials have compared legalizing pot to legalizing pedophilia, and have been accused of trying to push dispensaries out of the city.

Now, a city worker claims in court that he was canned after he failed a drug test, despite the fact that he had a legal medical-pot card. In lawsuit filed in Miami-Dade County Court on August 23, ex-city worker Alan J. McDuffie alleges that the city fired him even after he warned his employers that he was legally allowed to ingest THC. He's now suing for employment discrimination.
5. More than 100 Florida Cities Ban Medical Marijuana Dispensaries. Per an investigation by the Naples Daily News earlier this year, more than 100 municipalities in Florida have enacted temporary or permanent bans on medical marijuana dispensaries. But that hasn't stopped the growing industry from reaching customers, the Daily News found:
As many Florida communities ban or delay the opening of marijuana dispensaries, the state's cannabis producers and retailers have used deliveries to meet booming demand. Some of the largest such companies say that between a third and half of their customers now get the drug this way.
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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink