No SEA Weed

We noted a few weeks ago that Orange Park had become the first town in Clay County to reconcile the will of Florida voters with its own particular preferences, opening the door for medical marijuana dispensaries to open throughout Clay County. Every municipality has to figure out the logistics for itself, and some have done so more enthusiastically than others.

Case in point: Jacksonville Beach, an area the whole region leans on for fun, relaxation, food and drink and just chillaxing in general. One might presume those JB folks to be all for medical marijuana, especially given that 81 percent of its voters affirmed the amendment almost exactly a year ago. Not so much, it turns out. On Nov. 6, Action News Jax made the announcement that a total ban on the stuff was being pushed through the city council by a narrow 4-3 vote on the first reading. I’d never have bet even a little bit of a bitcoin on that outcome. But it is instructive for several reasons.

Action News cited the city’s venerable longtime Mayor Charlie Latham as giving what may be the local money quote of the year: “My job is to represent the people of Jacksonville Beach and as I mentioned during the council meeting, 81 percent of the people may have voted for medical marijuana,” he said. “But it wasn’t 81 percent of Jacksonville Beach residents looking to put a dispensary in Jacksonville Beach.” That is purely and simply exceptional, a beautiful example of doublespeak; I lift my pumpkin spice latte to you, sir! No word on whether the dear leader (a legitimate legend in local politics) could refrain from any smirks, grins or guffaws at that moment, but bonus points if he did.

But seriously, it’s interesting how easily disenfranchised voters can be, as we’ve seen in every realm, ranging from local ordinances to state referenda to presidential elections to global wars. (These all kinda relate to each other, but that’s another column.)

Jax Beach had already anticipated the statewide vote by enacting a temporary ban last year, and making it permanent now seems a fait accompli, pending a change of heart or mind or political fortunes by at least one city council member. Tallahassee lobbyists and pot-partial pols downstate are surely exploring such options as we speak, because accessing all possible markets seems vital to the long-term profitability of the state’s medical marijuana industry.

The second reading of the proposed permanent medical marijuana ban in Jax Beach is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 20 at Jax Beach City Hall.

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