Collier County commissioners voted 4-1 Tuesday to extend a temporary ban on medical marijuana dispensaries until the end of the year. 64% of county voters supported marijuana for medical use when they passed Amendment 2, but commissioners want to buy some time in hopes of lobbying state lawmakers for local control over how many dispensaries can open, and where.
"This plant is very good for people," Yvette Jones told commissioners. She works with people who have Crohn's Disease, one of a number of painful illnesses that medical marijuana helps to relieve.
Jones joined others at Tuesday's commission meeting who want the county to green-light dispensaries that patients in Collier can access.
"Why do they have to load up into a car and go three counties over to get medicine?" Nick Garulay asked commissioners.
But Bill Barton said his daughter became addicted to other drugs after starting with pot, and her sons fell into the same pattern.
"(Her sons) followed in their mother's footsteps," Barton told commissioners. "They started with marijuana at ages 12, 13. They are now 26 and 28, and both are heroin addicts."
Commissioner Andy Solis said that the passage of Amendment 2 makes access to medical marijuana a constitutional right.
"To ban a right that's granted by the constitution of the State of Florida...I don't even know how that's possible," Solis said.
Most commissioners are surprised that state law allows them to approve dispensaries without giving local control to the counties regarding the number of them. Commissioner Penny Taylor said that since county residents can still get medical marijuana delivered, their rights are not being denied.
"We're not depriving anyone of their constitutional right to use medical marijuana," Taylor said. "What we're saying is we don't necessarily want the dispensaries in Collier County."
Commissioners voted to extend a temporary moratorium on dispensaries until December 31, allowing the county time to lobby lawmakers for more control.