M.D. M.J.

Orange You Feeling GREEN?

First Clay County burg clears the way for MMJ dispensaries

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The medical marijuana referendum that passed last November was worded vaguely enough to allow individual municipalities sufficient leeway to implement the new laws as they see fit. That’s certainly annoying for advocates who would have preferred to see things progressing at a much faster pace, but it was crucial to getting enough mainstream support (or at least passive assent) from policymakers to offset the scads of special-interest money that flooded in from out of state to block its passage in 2014. Now it falls upon leaders in each city to move forward in their own ways.

Case in point: Orange Park, which finally opened the door to dispensaries just a couple weeks ago, after their Town Council logged a tight 3-2 vote on Oct. 3. The victory came right at the end of a year-long, self-imposed moratorium–slated to end in October–during which the logistics could be worked out. The city’s Planning & Zoning Board voted 3-1 to advance the debate in July, after figuring out exactly how the zoning would work.

The new rules stipulate that dispensaries cannot be within 500 feet of a school, or of each other, and cannot have advertising signs that can be seen from the street. The city’s first dispensary has already gotten around that by having a delivery vehicle, which I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about soon.

Mayor Scott Land led the way, along with Councilmembers Connie Thomas and Alan Watt (not to be confused with the late, great Alan Watts, who would’ve surely voted the same way), while Vice Mayor Gary Meeks and Councilman Ron Raymond voted no. City leaders had been building to this moment for most of the summer, and the denouement was received as a most pleasant surprise by citizens who, by and large, never really expected things would work out that way.

As noted before, all 67 Florida counties voted for the amendment, including Clay by a roughly 3-2 margin with more than 74,000 “yes” votes.

If there’s one thing that election cycle taught us, it’s that the will of the voters really means diddly-squat, in terms of the political endgame, which is why OP (where 67 percent of voters assented to the referendum) remains the only city in the county to actually do it, so far. The response from neighboring burgs, including Green Cove Springs, has been a resounding “Meh.” One thing’s certain: This will make it even more enjoyable to see Kingsman: The Golden Circle at Orange Park Mall, perhaps even more than MacGuffins Bar & Lounge.
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