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