Some cities and towns on Florida’s Space Coast are banning medical marijuana dispensaries
Dave Berman | Florida Today
For Viera resident Cynthia Brewer, the debate over medical marijuana is both personal and professional.
Brewer recently became director of operations and sales for EVIO Labs Florida, a Florida medical marijuana testing laboratory. But, long before that, she says she was a “patient advocate” for three members of her own family who had debilitating medical conditions.
Brewer said two of them, who lived in other states, were able to access medical marijuana with no trouble. But, for her grandfather, who lives in Brevard County, gaining access to medical marijuana has been difficult.
Although Florida voters, a year ago, overwhelmingly approved a state constitutional amendment allowing the use of medical marijuana for cancer patients and others with a range of medical conditions, Brevard County and many of its cities and towns have enacted moratoriums or bans on the opening of medical marijuana dispensaries.
So have a number of other counties and cities throughout Florida.
Palm Bay has been an exception, as its City Council last month approved an ordinance to allow medical marijuana treatment centers where medical marijuana could be dispensed.
Palm Bay City Attorney Andrew Lannon said two companies have indicated that they have plans to open such facilities in the city, including one on the 1400 block of Palm Bay Road Northeast. Opening dates have not been announced.
Brewer — who formerly was director of marketing and operations for The Pharmacy on South Courtenay Parkway on Merritt Island — has appeared before Florida Legislature committees, the Florida Department of Health and the Brevard County Commission to “tell them my personal story” and to push for greater access to medical marijuana for people who need it.
Brewer says she is disappointed that the Brevard County Commission last month approved a moratorium on the opening of medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated ares of the county. The moratorium will extend at least until March.
But Brewer said she is hopeful that county commissioners have become more educated about medical marijuana, and proud that they are keeping an open mind on the issue. Ultimately, she hopes they will end up approving a measure that will give local residents greater access to medical marijuana.
“The county has a responsibility to be the voice of reason” by allowing dispensaries to open, Brewer said.
The only Brevard County commissioner to support that approach and vote against the moratorium at the two required votes, on Oct. 10 and Oct. 24, was Kristine Isnardi, who is a registered nurse.
“I won’t be supporting this” moratorium, Isnardi told fellow commissioners, saying the moratorium was “denying access” to patients who could benefit by it.
Florida voters in 2016 voted in favor of the constitutional amendment, known as Amendment 2, to allow medical marijuana for certain medical conditions.
Amendment 2 gave doctors the authority to recommend marijuana for patients who have AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, cancer, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder and other debilitating medical conditions.
There was 71.3 percent support for the measure by voters — significantly more than the 60 percent required for approval of a state constitutional amendment. In Brevard County, 70.9 percent of the voters supported the amendment.
“Whether or not you agree with medical marijuana and whether or not you agree philosophically with the fact that we have them in place, it was a voter-approved measure, and I think the misconceptions and the misrepresentations about what these dispensaries will look like is what has people scared,” Isnardi said.
Isnardi said medical marijuana “is basically an oral medication” that would be dispersed is a “very controlled” facility.
“It won’t be the kind of place where people go and smoke pot,” Isnardi said. “This was approved by the voters, and I believe that we have a right as a community to make sure that we provide the dispensaries.”
At one point, Isnardi made a motion to reject the moratorium.
“Again, this is not a philosophical discussion of what each of us either religiously or ethically or morally believes,” Isnardi said. “This is a liberty issue for me.”
Other commissioners, however, didn’t buy into her argument. No other commissioner would second her motion, so her proposal didn’t even come up for a formal vote.