Free Market Access in Medical Care May be Dead with Boca Raton’s Elected Officials!



Boca Raton’s City Council is, once again, about to demonstrate its propensity to impose, through government power, an arbitrary public policy without adequate information or debate. At the City Council meeting on October 10, Ph.D. Candidate Eric Sevell took the public microphone to present a learned presentation and power point in opposition of the first reading of what is expected to be an indefinite ban on Medical Marijuana Dispensaries within Boca Raton city limits. Attached here is Mr. Sevell’s power point presentation in its entirety, accompanied with his article written for BocaWatch offering factual evidence and commentary intended to encourage the City Council to decline taking such a legislation prohibition.

On October 24th, the City Council seems prepared to insert its legislative will on to the medical professional’s relationship with a patient. This is another example of bad goverence. Any legal commodity’s availability to the public should be determined by free market principles and not by the ill-conceived political winds thought to be prevailing by elected officials. In this case, free market principles and the political winds of the community are both blowing in the same direction. Medical Marijuana Dispensaries should not be banned without substantial proofs of harm to the general community. No such proofs have been uncovered or offered to the City Council to justify such a city-wide ban.

Al Zucaro, Publisher


Despite offering no justification, the Boca Raton City Council has taken steps to effectively ban medical marijuana dispensaries within the city limits indefinitely. This would force residents, who are ostensibly dealing with debilitating illness or disability, to travel further distances to obtain their medicine. As a Boca resident and social scientist, this is unacceptable to me, and many of the other 76% of Boca residents who voted in favor of Amendment 2, legalizing medical marijuana in Florida (1). Below is a brief summary of how we got here, and an explication of the presentations I have given to the city’s planning and zoning board (P&Z) and city council on this issue.

City Council and P&Z. Since 2014, the city has repeatedly instituted one-year moratoriums on dispensaries, and the current ordinance goes further by attempting to ban them indefinitely. The city has repeatedly claimed for three years that it needs time to do research. Three years later, there is no evidence on public record that suggests the city ever attempted to research the issue. Additionally, and notably, city staff has refused to state on public record who initiated these ordinances to begin with. As a red herring, the city has also repeatedly insisted that the ban is not problematic because, as most adamantly repeated by Councilman Weinroth, “Patients are not being denied access to medical marijuana as a result of this course of action,” an argument that immediately suffers from issues of face validity and was referred to by one local resident as “disturbing” (2, 3). Notably, on August 17th, 2017 the Boca Raton P&Z Board voted 4-2 against the current ordinance to ban dispensaries. The board’s concerns included a lack of clarity on the city’s regulatory capabilities, definitional issues (e.g., what counts as a “dispensary”), potential exclusions for hospitals or nursing homes, and being forced into an all-or-none situation. During the first public hearing on the current ordinance, the city council hardly acknowledged the significance of the P&Z board’s decision.

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Negative Secondary Effects. Although the city has never actually raised the issue itself, one thing we should actually be concerned about is the potential for “Negative Secondary Effects.” In short, these are undesirable consequences, such as an increase in crime and decrease in property values, produced by certain types of businesses. Social scientists often undertake studies to assess the validity of these claims, and although the data is only beginning to emerge alongside the industry, early studies suggest medical marijuana dispensaries are neither associated with nor cause these negative effects. These studies, which I presented to both the P&Z board and the city council, suggest further that any issues that might occur would likely be mitigated by basic security measures such as camera systems and guards. For example, a study done by Kepple and Friesthler (2012) in Sacramento, California found no association between the density of medical marijuana dispensaries and violent or property crime rates (4). Despite the existence of such studies, the city has made no attempt to find them, and my submissions, to my knowledge, have been completely ignored.

Other Concerns. First, to suggest that medical marijuana does not improve the quality of life for those who suffer from illness or disability is to willfully ignore the voices of countless individuals. This is an objective fact, and an important one given Boca’s significant elderly population. It is also worth restating that it is simply cruel to make it more difficult for our most vulnerable and marginalized to obtain their medicine based on no justification whatsoever. Boca’s most vulnerable need access. Second, by forcing these businesses elsewhere, Boca loses out on the potential for creating jobs and revenue. Although there is immense wealth in Boca, institutions like schools and charities are still desperately short on resources. Third, threats to children, family, and schools are commonly invoked as a red herring to inspire irrational fear. There is absolutely no body of empirical evidence that suggests the legalization and implementation of medical marijuana causes (or is even associated with) harm to children or key institutions like family and education. Quite frankly, as someone who was born and raised in this city, I can attest that our high schools and colleges already function as de facto dispensaries, and have for decades. To be clear, I say this not to suggest our schools have a problem, but that the presence of marijuana has not stopped these places from becoming world class institutions that send incredibly prepared students to some of the most elite schools and jobs in the country.

Finally, I conclude by suggesting we ask ourselves what kind of city we want to be. Do we want to be the kind of city whose knee jerk reaction is to ban everything that is new and different, or do we want to be the kind of city that is willing to take on challenging issues when the welfare of our most vulnerable is at stake? I strongly disagree with the city’s suggestion that this is just a land use or a zoning issue and that it acceptable to make people go further for their medicine without any justification. The stakes are much higher. The final city council vote on this issue is currently scheduled for Oct. 24th. I hope to see more Boca residents there.



MEDICAL MARIJUANA (MM), Boca Raton, and smart policy by Eric Sevell


(1) Sun Sentinel Editorial Board. August, 2017. “Voters’ Say on Medical Marijuana’s Gone up in Smoke.” Sun-Sentinel.

(2) Weinroth, Robert. August, 2017. “With Medical Marijuana, Caution is Necessary.” Sun-Sentinel.

(3) Schellenberg, Howard. August, 2017. “Councilman’s View on Marijuana Dispensaries Disturbing.” Sun-Sentinel.

(4) Kepple, Nancy and Bridget Freisthler. 2012. “Exploring the Ecological Association Between Crime and Medical Marijuana Dispensaries.” Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs 3(4):523-30.

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Eric Sevell was born, raised, and currently resides in Boca Raton. He is currently finishing his PhDs in Sociology and Criminal Justice from Indiana University (IU). Eric has published on topics ranging from political attitudes to community and crime, and has taught Criminology and Deviant Behavior classes in person and online as an Associate Instructor for IU. He has a commitment to social justice and is interested in seeing Boca become a more equitable and inclusive place. In addition to his own engagement with local politics here, he is also a member of the 2020 Vision, a Boca Raton based non-profit working to develop the Wildflower and Silver Palm Parks alongside the city.


  1. This one is a no brainer. The 70+% of Boca Residents who voted FOR medical marijuana should be more than enough to vote in replacements to our current council.

  2. “Any legal commodity’s availability to the public should be determined by free market principles”. Really, is that how it works? In that case Boca should have strip clubs lining Federal Highway. One of the roles of City Council is to preserve and protect the fabric of the city. Overall Boca does a great job to this end.

    The level of naivete in this article is astounding. To presume that marijuana dispensaries would be relegated to purely medicinal purposes and not become corrupted is to ignore the pill mill epidemic that Florida is still battling. Would crime go up? Would property values go down? Both are possible if not likely, but certainly the presence of dispensaries will not decrease crime nor increase property values.

    Lastly, this article draws the false conclusion that a 70% vote in favor or medicinal marijuana means that the same percentage of people favor dispensaries in their back yard. Doubtful at best.

    In the absence of any compelling evidence (in my opinion) to the contrary, I side with the City Council on this one. Perhaps you should talk to Delivery Dudes about expanding their offerings to include weed….errr, um sorry medicinal marijuana. Fake problem solved.

    • I suppose a lot of this comes down to what it means to “preserve and protect” the fabric of the city. I think we have very different definitions, and that’s ok. But as a matter of public policy, where is the evidence?

      Conflating marijuana with opiates is a wild false equivalency. The histories are nothing alike, the substances are nothing alike, and the consequences are nothing alike. For example, while we have dozens of people dropping dead every day from opiates, literally no one has ever died from a marijuana overdose. While the current opiate crisis is a process that has unfolded only over the last few decades, regular marijuana use has been present in this country for over a century without any remotely equivalent issue.

      I’m not sure how else to satisfy your concerns if scientific, peer-reviewed studies do not count as “compelling evidence.” Everything you describe as problematic is entirely hypothetical. If you can show evidence that rebuts what I presented I would be more than willing to consider those issues real. But the shortfall of evidence does not seem to lie with the affirmative side of the issue. Also, is the standard for opening a new business going to be that it must reduce crime and increase property values? If we had no banks there would be no bank robbers, I suppose. No bars, no bar fights, etc.

      Finally, I am of the opinion that if 76% of people voted for something, that implicitly suggests they want access to it. If you are really going to suggest the opposite, then we are just going to have to agree to disagree. The hyperbole about a dispensary in everyone’s backyard isn’t very compelling either.

  3. Allowing “medical” marijuana unfortunately opens the door for illicit rampant purchases.
    There are already way too many ” recovery houses that are mostly run by people taking huge cash from desperate people or parents . The rate of “cure” is extremely low.Also Florida has many “pain ” clinics where opioids are being sold . These are huge drug strains that cause user death , car accidents and huge crime from desperate people . Say no to all of these ideas . I am glad there is a strong council voting against these drugs .

    • Do have a shred of evidence to support anything you claim? Logically, how is it possible that there will be more illegal sales from a legal apparatus if all sales as they currently exist are illegal? The only way that would be true is if medical marijuana dispensaries caused significantly more people to smoke than before AND those people decided to then obtain it illegally. A wild and illogical claim with no evidence.

      Also, I must reiterate again that ANY COMPARISON BETWEEN OPIATES AND MARIJUANA IS AN ASTRONOMICALLY WILD FALSE EQUIVALENCY. Please do some research before immediately dismissing something 76% of residents voted for.

  4. Pot shops, head shops, marijuana dispensaries…they are all the same thing: A place for people to buy weed to get high. Anyone in favor of such an establishment should arrange to have the store set up next to their own house—oh wait–they would not want it there. Perhaps on Mizner? After a nice dinner at Max’s or Truluck’s and some window shopping….hey let’s stop by the dispensary. Oh wait…you have to have a prescription? Whatever….I guess the shop is only for genuinely ill people…who need the comfort of a toke now and then. The people who frequent these places are not the elderly and the ill. They are people beating the system, so they can get high. Is this the kind of establishment we need in fashionable Boca Raton? I don’t think so.


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