Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Banned in Boca for Another Year!

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The Boca Raton City Council decided this week that their hypothetical, fabricated concerns were more important than implementing the will of the 76% of Boca residents who voted in favor of medical marijuana. Before proceeding, a few notable exceptions must be highlighted. First, we should extend a thank you to Councilwoman O’Rourke for taking time to do her own research on the issue since the city decided not to do so. Second, we should extend a thank you to Councilman Weinroth, who ended up voting against the ban despite his initial leaning on the issue. Councilman Weinroth’s decision to shift stances was based largely on his consideration of local testimony and a review of the evidence. It is also worth noting that although he voted in favor of the ban, Councilman Rodgers added two amendments to make the issue a priority for the City’s Tallahassee lobbyists and to essentially extend for up to one year the current moratorium scheduled to sunset on November 8th.  Mr. Rodgers essentially is ensuring the issue to come up again sometime within the next year.

Unfortunately, the rest of the council did not follow suit. It was incredibly disappointing that the first real discussion of this issue took place at the vote and not the half-dozen meetings beforehand. The entire handling of the issue can best be described as a failure of due process. The city chose to not research the issue for four years and then used this lack of information along with wild hypotheticals to justify their unjustifiable ordinance. Many of the definitional and technical “concerns” raised by the council likely could have been researched in the weeks leading up to this and the prior meeting if a genuine concern had been given to the issue earlier on. But it is abundantly clear that the city officials  never intended to give this issue a fair chance.

While Mayor Haynie acknowledged that the will of the voters was clear, she insinuated that the issue was too complex to be left to residents/voters and should ultimately be the responsibility of the city council, which apparently operates based on a system of paternalism. Along with Councilman Singer, she raised a series of questions and concerns that were confusing at best and directly intended to obfuscate the conversation at worst. For example, the mayor warned that “we could end up with four dispensaries in one plaza” although basic consideration of market principles such as supply and demand suggest that such a scenario is highly implausible.

Further, despite offering no evidence to support the concern, the mayor suggested that dispensaries might be targets of crime because there are no banks willing to deal with them. However, businesses like First Green Bank, which operates a branch in Ft. Lauderdale, are offering to help with such issues as the industry emerges. According to the Sun-Sentinel, “First Green contracts with an armored pickup service that collects the cash from the dispensaries and ships it to a Federal Reserve vault. […] The arrangement prevents dispensary employees from being targeted by robbers and helps verify to authorities that illicit money isn’t being laundered through the operations.” (1)

Mayor Haynie is arguably the real “winner” of the city council’s vote, as she will get to have her proverbial cake and eat it to: the mayor gets the ability to say she voted to ban dispensaries at the city level but also supports them at the county level in the district she could soon represent if she wins her election to the county Commission District 4 seat. In the meantime, Boca residents and patients will be the “losers” of this decision.

Following the meeting, Councilman Singer went on Facebook Live outside City Hall to lament the lack of residents who show up to voice their opinions on various issues. Perhaps it is because even when residents clearly vote for a certain policy, show up to voice their opinions, and present coherent arguments and empirical evidence, certain councilmembers are going to ignore all of that and vote exactly how they intended to from the outset. If you are concerned with the council’s willful disregard of resident voices or would like to thank those councilmembers who did try to make the appropriate decision to allow dispensaries within the city limits, I would encourage you to contact them using the information below:

Mayor Susan Haynie – shaynie@ci.boca-raton.fl.us

Deputy Mayor Jeremy Rodgers – jrodgers@ci.boca-raton.fl.us

Councilman Mayor Robert Weinroth – rweinroth@ci.boca-raton.fl.us

CRA Chair/Councilman Scott Singer – ssinger@ci.boca-raton.fl.us

Andrea O’Rourke – aorourke@ci.boca-raton.fl.us

 

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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.

11 COMMENTS

  1. Eric, you make all sorts of accusations that are insane. You say no one on the city council “reviewed evidence”, “fabricated concerns”, ” failure of due process”, “Boca will be losers”, on and on. Boca would be nuts to approve this dispensary without a clear understanding of the consequences. The Mayor was right we could end up with 5 in a strip mall. When you say 76% voted for dispensaries that is not true they voted grass should be made available to the sick. THe sick can drive 5 minutes or order online and get what they need. I personally see a huge opportunity for abuse. Lets face it half of FAU would volunteer to pick up grandmas meds at one of probably 100’s of dispensaries in the areas. I remember 20 years ago when several young kids like your self said in Del Ray ‘It is right we provide a place for addicts to get better”. The city council was goofy and said ok. Now look at the problem Del Ray has 50 to 100 sober homes . This boca council has it right except for Mr Weinroth.He lacks a lot of common sense. Glenn Groman had it right . Lets be careful.

  2. Eric, so you teach “social justice” in your classes at IU. Does that mean that students have a right to use grass whenever they want which I believe that is your real agenda. You advocate legalizing grass for everybody . Am I right. That is ok to be honest. So you believe that society or government has no right to restrain you from doing grass or illegal drugs . I think 15 states agree. Colorado has opened it up and are you aware of the consequences . Serious issues, crime, on an on. So you can talk about all the benefits if you want but Gromann, and Rodgers since army guys know what is does to the average kid coming into the army. It fries their brain so they become useless to society. So when you attack our council for not “reviewing evidence”, whose yours. We have a mature city council that can spot a future serious problem and we ,the people ,should be happy. Eric, finish your thesis elsewhere. Boca is not an experiment to your progressive agendas.

    • First, I said residents voted in favor of medical marijuana, as in the amendment. But I would absolutely argue that they also were essentially voting on access as well. Why would 76% of people vote on something they did not want access to or that would not be available for others? You can use NIMBY hyperbole all you want but it doesn’t follow logically. Second, it’s interesting that despite the constant complaints of traffic in Boca that you claim it only takes “5 minutes” to cross the city line. Besides the fact that a Boca resident went on public record at the first public hearing on this issue and explained exactly why it is a burden, are you going to guarantee coverage and pay for delivery of people’s medicine to Boca if they can’t drive? Third, “I personally see…” needs to be supported with evidence, because the evidence I’ve seen (which is in peer-reviewed scientific journals) suggests legal administration will actually reduce illegal opportunity networks in this context.

      Fourth, lots of FAU students are high right now – in class – at home – at work – and medical marijuana dispensaries are hardly going to affect this either way. Fifth, as I’ve stated elsewhere, comparing this situation to opiates is an astronomically wild false equivalency. I also do not appreciate the ad hominem attack on my age and would like to see evidence that it was “several young kids” that are responsible for the current crisis of recovery/sober homes. Further, if young people are so stupid then why did the sage Delray City Council elders listen to them at the time?

      Sixth, my “agenda” is to give students the tools to assess social issues based on logic, reasoning, and scientific, peer-reviewed empirical evidence. Whether or not students believe they should have a right to smoke, or if others do, is a decision I leave to them. In the industry, we refer to this as critical thinking. Based on an extensive review of drug policy, I absolutely advocate for the full legalization and decriminalization of marijuana but that is not what was being debated here. I am not aware of any systematic consequences from marijuana coming out of Colorado and so if you could provide credible evidence for that claim I’d like to see it. At no point do I argue consequences are impossible, and if they arise we should consider them carefully. But I’m still waiting for the evidence. Seventh, I would also like to see credible evidence for the claim that marijuana “fries [your] brain so they become useless to society.” Further, while I have profound respect for and thank Mr. Gromann and Mr. Rodgers for their service, this does not logically lead to the conclusion that they are also experts on marijuana or drug policy more broadly. Eighth, my evidence is not based on “who” but on “what” and the what is scientific, peer-reviewed evidence that I submitted to both the Planning and Zoning Board and the City Council. Would you like copies?

      Finally, my dissertation has absolutely nothing to do with medical marijuana or marijuana at all but the suggestion that a young Boca resident and student should leave town because you don’t agree with him is pretty gross. That sends a great message.

  3. Eric,

    We got very little input from residents, business owners, or workers in our city.. and those I did hear from were more on the side against than for. I’m elected to represent the residents of the city of Boca Raton, not the residents of Delray, Boynton, or greater Palm Beach County. I do appreciate you speaking at the meeting.

    Anyone who watched or attended the meeting should have noted the very big differences between the amendment that was passed by over 70% of our voters and the dispensary ban that we were looking at TUE night on the council. As I said in the meeting, I am 100% against criminalization of marijuana (medical or otherwise) for use by individuals. Residents or workers of Boca still have easy access, either via delivery or via a 5-10 minuted trip to palmetto/powerline or Deerfield.

    Voters voted for the medical use of marijuana, and the state has done a very poor job of implementing that thus far. It’s not yet being treated like any other drug. In Boca, we regulate many things.. car dealerships, adult entertainment, bar locations, landscaping, signage, etc etc etc. The state’s current implementation pre-empts many of the local controls and options that we have for nearly any other business. We simply said, let’s take a wait and see approach, let them fix things at the state level, and then we’ll take another look in the very near future. The local level is exactly where these kinds of differences should occur, and there’s no rush to give dispensaries preferential treatment (due to preemption) that we wouldn’t give many other uses or businesses.

    Respectfully,
    Deputy Mayor Jeremy Rodgers

    • Deputy Mayor Rodgers,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to respond. I argued and believe the hypothetical/potential/realized benefits from allowing dispensaries outweigh the hypothetical/potential/realized costs, even with the current lack of state guidance. The city ultimately argued the inverse and although I disagree I do respect that decision. I might argue that this issue did deserve preferential treatment because unlike car dealerships or strip clubs this immediately affects people’s health, but it’s spilt milk now. My only hope is that if/when the state gives more guidance and when the issue comes up again it will be given the attention it deserves. Regardless, thank you for taking the time to listen and engage beyond the council meetings.

  4. Eric, I want to apologize for being so negative and offending you. Rather than discouraging your views we should be doing the opposite. Boca needs more young people to get involved in city issues. You bring a fresh viewpoint that many of us retirees do not understand. You need to finish getting your PHD and come back and help out.
    I voted for the grass bill . Who would not want a patient suffering from cancer or other to have relief. It is the unintended consequences that scare me. 5 years ago the no 1 problem in many towns was young people getting pain pills from grandma. Than 100’s of places started selling millions to anyone whom walked thru the clinic door. Florida was in trouble with 1000’s of overdoses. We now have a opiates crisis. You use fancy words like there is no connection between grass and opiates as in ” peer reviewed scientific journals ” and ” will reduce illegal networks” and best one “empirical evidence”. My 70 years of life experience disagrees but could be wrong. I know of over 10 families in boca that lost their kids to drugs. I just think we should be cautious with these dispensaries. I am willing to learn. Eric, stay involved. Organize an advisory board to study this issue and report back to the council. Good luck with your studies. Again, I apologize.

    • Mr. McWalter,

      No apology necessary. Having conversations with people coming from different perspectives is exactly what the city and our society more broadly need to encourage. I don’t mean to use fancy words or phrases to distract but to signal very specific arguments. For example, when I invoke “empirical evidence” I do so to suggest that policy issues should be based on data on not on the whims of one’s personal opinions. It could be that one’s opinion does reflect what the data says, but that is often not the case. When I invoke “peer-reviewed journals” I do so to differentiate them from what could be considered less rigorous studies. For example, any random person could collect data and manipulate it to suit their ends. “Peer review” implies it went to multiple experts in the field who all looked at it, sent corrective notes, and only then allowed it to be published. As someone who has friends and family affected by opiate addiction (sadly it seems everyone has one of these stories) I immediately understand your concern. But there is much misleading information out there that make these two things seem similar when they are not. There is even emerging evidence that states with legal marijuana access are seeing reduced rates of opiate addiction. The Delray Beach Deputy Mayor (or it may have been a councilman) actually presented data on that point when the dispensary issue came up in their locality. The reason I started all this is not because I stand to personally benefit but because I genuinely believe residents do and because I believe sound social science stands behind it. Please keep these conversations going!

  5. There are numerous studies by the Department of Justice that show crime increases near dispensaries. I have dealt with this problem first hand and in the trenches. People are being killed every day by the cartel and smugglers who will exploit legalization. People are trying to smuggle directly into the Boca inlet. When Mr. Sevell joins the Army or Army Reserve and takes a few trips to Honduras he can talk to me. I will be submitting those studies to City Council. When somone gets killed or there is an armed robbery of a dispensary we should look to Mr. Sevell’s comment. I want Boca PD protecting me not a marijuana dispensary. I say again medical marijuana is a subterfuge to eventual recreational use, once the dispensaries are here we won’t be able to get rid of them. Is a money driven scam, doctors will give a medical marijuana card to anyone breathing, just like the prescriptions written by the pill mills. There is NO effective field sobriety test for marijuana….

    • Glenn, You paint with a very broad brush….Eric Sevell came to the Council with a cogent and well presented argument. You, on the other hand, have provided no evidence to support your broad assertions. The major point is that the public should be heard and both you and Mr. Sevell are members of the public. Your argument is better made at the County Commission, the larger local government that has approved these dispensaries….or, in Tallahassee, where the wisdom of this legislation began…but to make the argument that little Boca Raton should hold back the tide of crime and social collapse is silly. Your condescending approach to debate and argument is offensive. Criticize if you are so convinced, but avoid the personal attack. Better yet, go to the source, the State Legislature, or the County Commission…There are open seats at both these bodies Run for office….Bring your ‘wisdom’ to the public arena…that would be contributing to the public good…and very interesting to say the least….Al Zucaro

    • Mr. Gromann,

      I can’t stress enough how much I respect and appreciate your service. That is not what I am questioning. What I do question is the applicability of your arguments to what is happening on the streets of Boca. I have to respectfully disagree with the suggestion that cartels from Honduras are responsible for marijuana on the streets of Boca, and it is unclear how creating a legal apparatus within our own country would make this worse if it is even true. There is absolutely no doubt that historically Central American, South America, and the Caribbean have been fruitful locations for the production, manufacturing, and export of drugs. There is a major history there and I am broadly familiar with it, especially as it applies to cocaine production, the War on Drugs, and supply-side strategies. But again, I must respectfully disagree and argue that is not what we’re talking about in this context. Being born and raised in Boca, I can tell you that distribution of marijuana in Boca is largely facilitated by local rich white kids, and you would be shocked to find how high up the line that statement remains true. We have to be careful not to lump all “drugs” together when discussing distribution, history, and consequences because each one presents a very different story.

      I want Boca PD protecting me and my dispensaries – that should not be mutually exclusive. The owners and patients are taxpayers and many will be Boca residents. The solution to dispensaries being robbed is to have banks accept their money. It is kind of laughable that our banks, arguably the biggest crooks of the century, don’t want to take money from dispensaries because marijuana is still illegal at the federal level. If there is blood on my hands its because I live in a society that refuses to do the right and logical thing. I’m trying to change that.

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