Commission Approves Restrictions On Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

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O'Dea at WikiCommons [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Medical marijuana legalization will be on the ballot this November and if it passes commissioners in Wilton Manors want to be ready to contain it.

On July 26, commissioners voted 4-0 to place restrictions on where medical marijuana dispensaries can be located if a business owner wants to open one in the city. Commissioner Justin Flippen was absent. Previously, commissioners had passed a moratorium on dispensaries to give themselves time to come up with permanent regulations.

The city can’t outright ban all dispensaries but, per previous court cases dealing with other controversial businesses, such as strip clubs, it can regulate where they are located.

“These are coming and you need to zone them before you can’t control where they’re located,” said Mayor Gary Resnick. He cited a dispensary that opened in Tallahassee the day of the commission meeting. According to the Pensacola News Journal, another dispensary is planned for Pensacola.

“I’m not opposed to medical marijuana. I just want it in the right location,” said Commissioner Tom Green.

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A second vote will have to take place before the regulations are finalized but the proposed law includes a minimum distance of 1,000 feet between dispensaries and other dispensaries, schools, daycare centers, houses of worship and licensed rehabilitation facilities.

That leaves a maximum potential of four sites. Officials said they would clarify exactly where the dispensaries could be located by the next meeting on Aug. 23. The Aug. 9 meeting has been cancelled.

Green wants to go further and prohibit dispensaries from being opened inside check cashing stores and pawn shops. He also worried about the impact a dispensary could have on a neighborhood and asked if they could be kept at least 1,000 feet away from homes. “I still don’t like this being next to residential areas,” he said.

City Attorney Kerry Ezrol said the city could not require dispensaries be located at least 1,000 feet from residential neighborhoods.

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Ezrol added that the only form of medical marijuana that doctors are allowed to prescribe by the state is known popularly as “Charlotte’s Web” and has been designed to be unusable for the purposes of getting high.

Commissioners also voted on regulations regarding the operation of a dispensary, including requiring background checks.

But Commissioner Julie Carson criticized the regulations as being too onerous. “I don’t like a lot of this.”

In particular, Carson said she did not like that the city could close down a dispensary if the applicant, owner or manager was convicted of a felony. She didn’t think it was fair that the owner of the dispensary would have to pay for the mistake of an employee if the crime wasn’t associated with the dispensary. She added that it was important that the city not get in the way of allowing businesses to offer medicine to people who need it, just as it would not hinder pharmacies selling drugs to combat HIV/AIDS or cancer or any other disease.