The Sarasota County Commission has rejected a preemptive ban on recreational marijuana because of an error found in the ordinance.
In May, the County Commission took up a proposal that would ban the growing and selling of non-medical marijuana, if it ever becomes legal. But commissioners were unaware that the ordinance would also outlaw CBD, a hemp derivative already sold in many stores.
During Wednesday's commission hearing, local residents had the opportunity to speak out about the ban on recreational marijuana. It was during the public comment period that a number of residents, some of whom use or own CBD businesses, pointed out that the ban would also apply to CBD and hemp. Only then did commissioners realize the error.
“The audience was right and we were wrong,” said Commission Chairwoman Nancy Detert.
After the error was found, County Commissioner Michael Moran, who spearheaded the ban, stuck by the original intent of the proposal.
“I personally am going to do everything in my power to send a clear message that recreational marijuana is not welcome in Sarasota County," Moran said. "That was the purpose of putting this ordinance forward.”
Most of the board members didn’t feel comfortable voting on the ordinance with the error in place. However, they continued to listen to resident speak about medical and non-medical marijuana for almost four hours.
Cynthia Cole said she's in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana for medical reasons.
"Marijuana should be legal because there are people with serious health issues who can't afford medical marijuana," she said. "They should be able to grow their own for that purpose."
Angela Minot expressed concern and confusion over the ban.
“I consider myself to have a finger on the pulse of how our people feel about the use and legalization of cannabis,” said Minot. “My confusion, commissioners, and I mean no disrespect - why is alcohol passed to be able to purchase early on a Sunday morning, yet you seek to ban cannabis if made recreational?”
The commission voted 3-2 against the ordinance, but asked the county attorney to revise and resubmit the ban. Whether or not it will pass after revision remains to be seen.
Commissioner Charles Hines expressed skepticism that a local ban would be effective if recreational marijuana ever becomes legal in Florida.
"If it’s legalized in the state and they sell it in Manatee County, then you go to Manatee County and buy it," said Hines.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct Cynthia Cole's position. She is in favor of recreational marijuana, not banning it.