Last year, the Wilton Manors Commission approved zoning restrictions for medical marijuana dispensaries in anticipation of their legalization. No dispensaries are currently located in the city but, if and when they do open, officials want to ensure they are limited to certain businesses districts.
“These are coming and you need to zone them before you can’t control where they’re located,” said Mayor Gary Resnick last year.
As part of the city’s regulations, no dispensary can be within 1,000 feet of a school, daycare center, house of worship, licensed rehabilitation facility, or another dispensary. But the law passed by the state legislature dictates that if local governments don’t ban dispensaries they must zone and regulate them the same as pharmacies.
At the July 11 meeting, commissioners did not talk much about how they wanted to respond to the new development by the legislature. But, in the past, commissioners have expressed a desire to have dispensaries in the city in order to give residents access to medical marijuana and the benefits that come along with it, which includes the treatment of glaucoma, restoring the appetite of patients on chemotherapy, and the reduction of seizures in some individuals.
City Attorney Kerry Ezrol asked commissioners for more time to come up with an advisory opinion as to how they should proceed. “I’ve been struggling with this issue. I’d rather wait to figure out a legal opinion,” Ezrol said.
The dispensary issue is the latest in the city’s recent move to adopt a more accepting policy towards marijuana.
At the end of 2015, the commission adopted a policy of decriminalizing marijuana use by creating a civil citation program. Instead of being arrested, individuals found with less than 20 grams of marijuana are given citations. The first offense results in a $100 fine. Second-time offenders are given a fine of $250 and $500 for a third. In addition to the fine, a third offense results in the offender going through a mandatory substance abuse assessment.
At the time the citation program was approved, Resnick said it was partly done to ensure individuals don’t have their lives ruined by being caught in possession of a minor amount of marijuana. “Something very, very minor ruins lives,” he said.
Commissioner Julie Carson said the citation program would allow police to spend less time arresting offenders and focus on more serious issues.
And although no dispensary has opened yet, Green Health – Marijuana Doctors, located 1749 NE 26 St., opened in March. No marijuana is provided on premises but doctors there do prescribe medical marijuana.