Jacksonville City Council panel defers cannabis code change, moves ‘hit free zone’ bill – Florida Politics

Jacksonville City Council panel defers cannabis code change, moves ‘hit free zone’ bill

Marijuana changes mulled, deferred: Ordinance 2018-75 would revise extant code relative to medical cannabis. The code was formulated in response to “Charlotte’s Web” low-THC cannabis being the single legal strain, and after an extended period of debate, processing and dispensing were allowed in commercial districts, with cultivation permitted in agricultural zones.

That debate was tortuous; so too is this one, with the second deferral of this legislation in Monday’s Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health & Safety committee

The ordinance would change things, allowing dispensaries anywhere in the city, including within 500 feet of a school. The previous zoning categories would be revoked.

“This bill puts our code in compliance with Florida statutes,” said a representative from the Office of General Counsel. “The statute prohibits cultivation and processing facilities within 500 feet of a school” but allows a dispensary given a waiver within 500 feet.

Counties do have the right to ban dispensaries entirely if they have nothing codified. But because there was an existing ordinance, bill sponsor Matt Schellenberg said in a previous meeting the county could not ban dispensaries, even as individual cities have done this.

“Unfortunately, we addressed it [in code]. And because we addressed it, we have to deal with it,” Schellenberg said.

The Council members won’t deal with it for at least a couple weeks, after yet another deferral, with concerns roiling the councilors.

Councilwoman Lori Boyer suggested that all dispensaries be moved to commercial zoning to match up with pharmacies.

Councilman John Crescimbeni flummoxed a city lawyer, meanwhile, noting inconsistencies between proposed language in the legislation that is explicit about the dispensing facilities and the state statute regarding cultivation and processing.

A public notice meeting will be scheduled between Schellenberg, Boyer, and Crescimbeni to hash out concerns about the cannabis code changes.

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No hit zones: Resolution 2018-171 would support policy designating city property “hit free zones.” It creates “areas in which no adult shall hit another adult, no adult shall hit a child, no child shall hit an adult, and no child shall hit another child.”

It would include parks and community centers, city buildings, and presumably municipal arenas and stadiums.

To that end, signs would be posted, and city employees trained in best practices regarding “supportive intervention.”

Hit free zones are often called “no hit zones,” In application, they call for employees to interrupt the behavior and get help.

The proposed legislation offers no penalties for violations of the hit free zone policy, as it is a resolution of conceptual support.

Sponsor Garrett Dennis said the bill “supports the culture of safety” in Jacksonville, advising that “discipline … in a public place” is inappropriate.

The bill, per Dennis, is supported by the State Attorney’s Office and other community stakeholders.

Costs for this program, which would involve installation of smaller signs or posters, are unknown. Also unknown: the unintended consequences for employees having to referee interactions between consumers of city services and their children.

“I have some real concerns about that,” said Councilman Scott Wilson. “We’re basically going to ask an employee [to deal with these situations]. My real concern is it’s going to take time away from employees who are already overworked.”

Wilson urged that each constitutional officer formulate his policy.

Council VP Aaron Bowman noted a lack of empirical proof that these programs work, as well as an unrefined scope of the program.

“I don’t know if this is a $10,000 program or a $5 million program,” Bowman said, urging deferral of the bill that would require signs and enforcement in 600 city facilities, parks, etc.

Without hard data, Bowman was a no vote.

Dennis and a Mayor’s Office representative likewise discussed a lack of an identified funding source for the bill, with Dennis saying the administration could come up with something.

Councilman Jim Love noted that there would have to be an exception for “sports play.”

“What we’re talking about here is corporal punishment,” Love said. “It needs to be tailored for corporal punishment. Hit free zone in a football field wouldn’t make for very exciting football.”

Finance, which Dennis chairs, is the next stop for this resolution on Tuesday.

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