To Burn or NOT to Burn

It’s been noted here before that the November 2016 referendum that allowed for legalized medical marijuana in Florida was worded vaguely enough to allow locals to decide on their own how exactly to implement the legislation. That has resulted in uneven results, with some cities (like Miami and Jacksonville) moving forward at warp speed, while others have still not accomplished much at all. The situation in Clay County is an example of piecemeal progress, but a crucial step was taken there just last week.

The Florida Times-Union’s Teresa Stepzinski reported Jan. 23 that the Clay County Commission had voted to permit dispensaries by a razor-thin margin of 3 to 2, splitting along the same lines as previous votes on the subject. The vote came one day before the end of a self-imposed moratorium on such businesses, a stop-gap measure enacted last year in order to give political leaders extra time to iron out certain details, particularly as it relates to zoning. Orange Park voted to allow it a couple months ago, while Green Cove Springs is still working on it.

At the same time Clay County was voting in its first dispensaries, our neighbors to the south were debating the next phase of the process will likely be for the rest of us: Shall we or shall we not smoke the pot? Dara Kam of the Gainesville Sun wrote on Jan. 25 about the dilemma being weighed by Judge Karen Gievers of the Leon County Circuit Court, in a case brought by longtime activists Bob and Cathy Jordan. They want the portion of the referendum that bans the flower form thrown out, on constitutional grounds, whereas Deputy Solicitor General Rachel Nordby not only wants it upheld, but wants the case thrown out straightaway.

If Gievers rules for the Jordans, her directive would set a precedent that not only allows the rest of the state to move in that direction, but opens the door for interstate commerce, since no one’s (legally) offering that product now. They have a powerful ally in the form of John Morgan, the perennially potential gubernatorial candidate who largely bankrolled the effort to get Amendment 2 passed through his group, People United for Medical Marijuana. He’s a wildcard with a voluminous wallet and a mouth to match, and that makes it hard to predict which way the judge will go on this. Folks wishing to see the flower flourish formally in Florida may actually see that wish come true much faster than anyone anticipated—and that’s exactly what opponents have feared all along.