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For Alex Patton, PausePot.Org is nothing new

Locals in Jacksonville had not paid much attention to Alex Patton, a Gainesville Republican political consultant, until relatively recently. However, he and his front group, PausePot.org, managed to insinuate themselves into the local political discourse two weeks ago by getting a moratorium banning Charlotte’s Web cultivation, distribution, or processing for 180 days.

The moratorium was passed at the end of a long evening, in which the latest iteration of a Police and Fire Pension Deal was passed. The media had checked out; whatever debate had happened was before the City Council meeting began officially.

As Christopher Hong wrote in the Florida Times-Union (link above), there were methodological questions about his approach to Council. Patton emailed Council President Clay Yarborough, looking for a “champion” on this issue in Jacksonville, and Yarborough and Councilman Richard Clark took the bait, even before Patton registered as a lobbyist.

Patton may be new to the game locally, but being the GOP go-to source on anti-cannabis messaging is not so new to him.

In 2014, Patton was a quote machine on Amendment 2.

“It is no coincidence that Charlie Crist’s law partner and biggest supporter, John Morgan, is financing medical marijuana,” he said to one outlet. To another, Patton said that MMJ was an issue the Democrats could use to “pump up the youth vote.”

Of course, Amendment 2 did not drive the youth vote in significant enough numbers to Crist, though the measure did outpoll the Democratic candidate by 10 points. What is clear, however, is that Patton learned a valuable lesson: namely, that there is a market niche in capitalizing on Reefer Madness hysteria, which, after all these years, has yet to die fully in NE Florida.

In that spirit, note the language of the “petition” on PausePot.Org:

I am deeply concerned with the lack of protection current zoning laws provide from the pending changes in Florida’s maurijuna industry. [SIC]

Communities need help in protecting schools, daycare centers, churches and residential areas from the growing and dispensing of marijuana in Florida.

This is why I sign the PausePot.org petition requesting local governments in North Florida initiate an immediate, temporary 1-year moratorium on all marijuana cultivation centers and dispensaries to allow for input from community stakeholders along with proper studies, land use, and zoning changes in accordance with local standards and practices.

Never mind the fact that there has been an effective moratorium for a year already. Never mind the fact that it shouldn’t take a year to allow for input and conduct proper studies. In Council last night, Lori Boyer devised a working compromise, taking advantage of agricultural zoning to determine placement of “cultivation centers”, pretty much on the fly.

But Boyer is not a lobbyist; she’s a pragmatist.

The absurdity of low-THC cannabis leading to a breakdown in social mores, in a city where entire zip codes seem bereft of legitimate businesses and economic development already, and certain neighborhoods are nexuses for gunplay from competing groups looking to profit off of the illicit drug trade, is evident to many observers. It certainly was evident to the activists that I talked to on Tuesday night at the Jacksonville City Council meeting.

Whether the politicians lead on this issue or not, it is evolving. In South Florida, marijuana decriminalization measures are advancing on the municipal level. Closer to home, some very plugged in people in local law enforcement are saying that cannabis prohibition has been a burden on the jail and increasingly finite police resources.

What does the future look like? Law enforcement officials, such as the Broward County Sheriff, coming out and saying that stuffing the jails full of cannabis smokers is not a viable business model. That’s the reality. In terms of actual law enforcement outcomes, marijuana prohibition, in the age of flakka, bath salts, and whatever poisons are to come, has emerged as a non-starter.

We reached out to Alex Patton for comment this morning by phone, email, and Twitter; he demurred.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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