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Sarasota Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021 2 weeks ago

County OKs resolution seeking local marijuana control

The resolution, approved 4-1, asks state lawmakers to give counties home rule authority when decided on recreational marijuana use.
by: Brynn Mechem Staff Writer

As federal and state lawmakers take efforts toward allowing recreational marijuana, local officials have asked the Florida Legislature to allow local government control over the drug, should it become legal statewide.

The resolution passed with a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Nancy Detert voting against. Those for the resolution stressed that the resolution does not mean they would reject recreational marijuana in the future; they would just like the option to do so.

Detert said if county residents were to vote in favor of legalization in a Florida election, it is the commission’s job to implement the will of the people.

“Eventually, the people will get to vote as to whether they want recreational marijuana or not, whether we like it or not,” Detert said. “We implement what the people want.”

As local proposals have come forward in recent years requesting medical marijuana dispensaries, commissioners have voiced concern that should recreational marijuana be legalized at the federal or state level, those dispensaries could flip to recreational sales.

It seems Florida is closer than ever to that reality.

In December, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. In Florida, a constitutional amendment that would make marijuana available to all adults for personal use could make its way to the Florida 2022 ballots.

To get ahead of legislation, commissioners on Feb. 9 adopted a resolution to request that Florida Legislature preserve local government home rule.

The resolution asks state lawmakers when crafting any bill that would legalize recreational marijuana to allow local government authority to regulate recreational marijuana. This would allow the county and not the state to have final say on if recreational marijuana is legal in Sarasota County.

The resolution states that local governments are better situated to determine the compatibility of land uses, public health and public safety for their communities.

Commissioner Christian Ziegler clarified that the resolution is not for or against recreational marijuana; it would just give the county government local authority over the cultivation and distribution of recreational marijuana if the state takes action.

The resolution is not a law and instead allows the board to state its position to the state as it considers future laws.

“All we’re stating in this resolution is that we’re expressing our desire to make a decision on behalf of Sarasota County,” Ziegler said.

During Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners said that in previous reporting, local media made it seem as if the county wanted to opt out of recreational marijuana sales. Instead, they just want the option for future board members, they said.

However, several board members did make it clear that they oppose the sale of recreational marijuana.

Commissioner Mike Moran said he isn’t “going to have [his] fingerprints” on anything that brings recreational marijuana to the county.

“The last thing that I think America needs right now is people sitting at home, smoking dope and making TikTok videos,” Moran said.

In past public hearings on proposed medical marijuana dispensaries, Moran has tried and failed to elicit promises that the applicants would never sell recreational marijuana.

Detert was against the resolution because, as a former member of both the Florida House and Senate, she didn’t think it would do any good. She said the county is already on the record in favor of local control.

“It’s going in somebody’s round file in Tallahassee the minute they receive it,” she said.

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