Coral Gables and its City Council originally said they would ban medical marijuana treatment centers within city limits, in part because they did not feel like it met the values of the community but also because of zoning issues. Vince Lago recently elected to meet with some medical marijuana advocates and patients and was won over by what they told him concerning the relief they receive from medial marijuana and the science behind it. It looks like the council is now mentally prepared to sit down and work their way through fitting in outlets within city limits even if it means resetting zoning for pharmacies themselves. Do you think more medical cannabis opponents would have a change of heart if they really sat down with medical marijuana advocates and patients and took a moment to look at it from their perspective?
After previously planning to ban medical marijuana dispensaries, Coral Gables leaders are changing their stance and going back to the drawing board to decide how to regulate the businesses.
Commissioners decided not to take a final vote on the ban at Tuesday’s meeting. Instead, in response to a change in state law that requires dispensaries to be regulated the same way as pharmacies, they will consider additional regulations on pharmacies.
The move away from an outright ban is a reversal by city leaders, including Commissioner Vince Lago, the ban’s sponsor, who emphatically said in July he didn’t “want dispensaries popping up all over the city.”
He said he changed his mind after meeting with medical cannabis advocates and a resident whose son depends on the drug.
“When I sat down with them, I realized the answer of simply banning it is not appropriate. There has to be a better way to manage the zoning,” Lago said.
Until the city’s plans are finalized, it will operate with the same plan that’s been in place since 2014 — no action on dispensaries until cannabis is legal under federal law.
State legislators approved a bill in June implementing Amendment 2, a constitutional change legalizing medical cannabis that Florida voters approved by referendum last November.
The bill essentially gives local governments two choices: regulate medical marijuana dispensaries in the same way they would treat pharmacies or ban them outright. The effect is to keep municipalities from limiting the number of dispensaries or restricting where they can be placed.
City leaders discussed creating a special overlay district for the dispensaries. Commissioner Michael Mena said he was against an outright ban and thinks the city should allow some, as long as they’re not near schools.