The local government dominoes on medical marijuana clinics may be toppling the other way in Central Florida, with Apopka City Council voting Wednesday night to reconsider its ban on dispensaries.

Apopka City Council voted to ask the city staff to research and draw up ordinance changes that would revoke a ban the city adopted a few months ago, thereby allowing dispensaries to sell medical marijuana in the city.

The reversal was engineered by City Commission Kyle Becker and quickly backed by Mayor Joe Kilsheimer because their previous support for the ban was not exactly based on opposition of the dispensaries, but on the concern that if every other city and county banned them as they expected, Apopka would become a medical marijuana hub for Central Florida.

That didn’t happen. Orange County rejected a ban in November, and Altamonte Springs, the Seminole County city neighboring Apopka, voted earlier this month to end a moratorium and allow the shops to operate.

“It was these anticipated bans that led staff, and many on this Council, to believe a burden would befall our city by way of increased density of these types of business. The fact these bans did not come to fruition is a significant pivot which I believe warrants additional conversation,” Becker wrote to Kilsheimer and the other city commissioners, asking for last night’s reconsideration.

Wednesday’s Apopka City Council meeting drew a similar crowd of medical marijuana advocates that helped convince the Orange County Commission to not ban the dispensaries in November. More than a dozen spoke expressing personal stories of military veterans who find relief from post traumatic stress disorder through medical marijuana, and caregivers and other patients who expressed needs for easy access to relieve pain and symptoms of a variety of ailments with medicinal products that do not cause addictions like opioids.

Among them was Gary Stein, Central Florida political director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Stein said he and the others are taking the opportunity to “dispel myths” about medical marijuana dispensaries, and to remind the commissioners that it’s in the best interests of their communities to make sure residents have access. Stein predicted more cities and counties will follow suit, ending moratoria or reversing bans.

The Apopka council voted unanimously to revisit the issue. The actual ordinance to lift the ban likely won’t come back to the City Council before late January or early February, but Wednesday’s debate left everyone assuming it would be approved.

“Once it was clear we had three votes, we got all five,” said Kilsheimer, who shared Becker’s conclusion that the issue was not Apopka being open to dispensaries, but the prospect that Apopka might be overwhelmed if it were the only city open to dispensaries.

About The Author

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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