The Marco Island City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to schedule a referendum banning recreational marijuana for the countywide primary election Aug. 18.

Council also directed the city attorney to draft a resolution to that end which will be considered during the next meeting.

On April 15, the city clerk received from the Collier County Supervisor of Elections office a certification that 1,275 registered city voters signed a petition for an ordinance to prohibit cultivating, manufacturing, warehousing, distributing and selling recreational marijuana.

State and federal law currently prohibit recreational marijuana.

The Ban Recreational Marijuana PAC, led by Marco Island planning board member  Edgar “Ed” Issler, excluded from its  effort hemp derived products containing 0.3% or less of THC, the compound that gives pot its high, and medical marijuana.

Issler said the political action committee acquired “almost twice” the amount of signatures required to move the ordinance forward but that the supervisor of elections stopped validating them after reaching 10% of registered voters.

“I’m very proud of the committee and everybody who helped gathered the signatures because a major part of that signature gathering experience was done during this (coronavirus) pandemic,” he said.

Vice-chair Jared Grifoni said the ordinance could have unintended consequences because it was “poorly drafted.”

“It never properly defines what medical marijuana is under Florida statue,” he said. “This could […] prevent medical (cannabis) patients from getting access to their medicine locally.” 

The ordinance also bans marijuana delivery devices used by medical marijuana patients, according to Grifoni.

During his time at the podium, Issler said medical marijuana is defined correctly on the ordinance and that the marijuana delivery devices would be allowed if used for medicinal purposes.

“On line 30 of the ordinance it says medical marijuana ‘as defined in the State of Florida Statutes,'” he said.

“As far as the paraphernalia that is used for medical marijuana, […] if somebody was using that very paraphernalia for medical marijuana it would not apply to this land development code addition.”

Scheril Murray Powell, attorney and legalization activist, told the Eagle it is “premature” to ban recreational marijuana at the municipal level if it has not been legalized by the state or federal governments.

“If it’s a constitutional amendment that legalizes recreational marijuana and it doesn’t give the municipalities the ability to ban it, then their ordinance would be null and void,” she said.