By Greg Peele, Treasurer
The Libertarian Party of Orange County is excited to see significant positive steps taken in Apopka at the December 20th, 2017 City Commission meeting. The Commissioners voted unanimously to reconsider the previous ban on medical cannabis dispensaries in city limits, tasking the city staff to draw up a proposed ordinance to revoke the ban passed a few months ago and develop a plan consistent with neighboring jurisdictions and state law.
Chair Ryan Speaking in Favor of Reconsidering the Ban on Dispensaries -
Previous opposition to medical cannabis dispensaries was primarily based on a combination of frustration at the limited options provided to the city regarding zoning of dispensaries, courtesy of the Florida Legislature's 2017 bill - in a nutshell, cities were legally required either to allow dispensaries under the same zoning requirements as pharmacies, or to ban them entirely, which conflicted with a large number of existing ordinances and plans under consideration by local jurisdictions all across the state. Our Chair, Derek Ryan, spoke passionately in favor of honoring the will of the voters, the free market, and patients seeking treatment, regardless of the issues in the Florida Legislature's approach, by permitting dispensaries under pharmacy zoning rules at the original hearing that resulted in the ban. However, four of the five City Commission members felt that a ban was necessary, especially on the assumption that the Orange County Commission and the neighboring Altamonte Springs City Commission were also likely to approve similar bans and this would potentially overload Apopka as a center of medical cannabis.
Chair Ryan Speaking Against the Original Ban - http://www.wftv.com/video?videoId=593982029&videoVersion=1.0
However, events in late 2017 changed the situation significantly. Significant and passionate multi-partisan opposition to the ban in Orange County, particularly from Florida House Representative Carlos Guilermo Smith (D-49), many local marijuana activists, Republican Candidate for Florida Governor Bruce Nathan, the Libertarian Party of Orange County, the Libertarian Party of Seminole County, and former employees of the Orange County government itself ultimately swayed the Orange County Commission to vote against the ban.
News Reports on Orange County Voting Against Ban, Including Statements From Chair Ryan -
Meanwhile, after the 2017 elections in Altamonte Springs in neighboring Seminole County, the Libertarian Party of Seminole County could celebrate the election of a Libertarian (former Libertarian National Committee Chair, no less) Jim Turney as Altamonte Springs City Commisioner for District 4. Commissioner Turney's first vote after being sworn in was, unanimously with his fellow commissioners, to revoke the prior Altamonte Springs moratorium on medical cannabis dispensaries. Altamonte Springs had previously, in 2015, voted to prepare for dispensaries, but the unexpected direction taken by the Florida Legislature rules in 2017 threw a monkey wrench into the original ordinance.
Altamonte Springs Commission Vote - https://www.clickorlando.com/health/altamonte-springs-to-vote-on-medical-marijuana-dispensaries
Quoting Commissioner Turney: "I'm proud to live in a city where the leaders provided legal status for medical marijuana facilities two years ago in anticipation of the voters approval of a constitutional amendment permitting use last year. My commission vote this week was an amendment to that ordinance to comply with the new state law which required banning as the only other option. After an 11 month moratorium, we can now have legal dispensaries. Altamonte is a great city!"
In light of the neighboring jurisdictions deciding against a ban, Mayor Joe Kilsheimer and Commissioner Kyle Becker quickly moved to revisit the issue and the entire Apopka Commission unanimously agreed.
As a final aside, we are also pleased to see a victory for zoning and business deregulation in Apopka in the same meeting - Mayor Kilsheimer and Commissioner Becker also promoted reducing the restrictions on minimum distance for businesses selling alcohol to promote the development of a downtown craft brewery environment similar to what we've seen in Winter Park and Orlando. While controversial, the measure passed with the additional support of Commissioner Diane Velazquez. As Libertarians we would prefer to see government step out of regulating these things entirely and trust the free market to settle which kinds of businesses Apopka residents would like to patronize. That said, we respect that the Commission considered this carefully and decided to take a measured step forward that balanced multiple concerns.
News Report on Apopka Relaxing Alcohol Restrictions - http://theapopkavoice.com/apopka-city-council-passes-ordinance-relax-alcohol-restrictions/
We look forward to an exciting new year for liberty in Orange County in 2018.