Miami Beach Zoning for Medical Marijuana Dispensaries is Complicated

Miami Beach Zoning for Medical Marijuana Dispensaries is Complicated

Miami Beach is having some troubles with medical marijuana dispensaries for a few reasons. Commissioners Aleman and Arriola seem to be opposed to having any medical cannabis outlets on the island at all which has slowed the process. They have been forced to permit three of them but new state-wide law has also further complicated the issue by forcing cities to zone medical marijuana stores the same as they would pharmacies. The Beach had different plans in place which is now slowing the process even further.

After state lawmakers passed legislation governing Florida’s medical marijuana industry this month, local zoning regulations for dispensaries being considered in Miami Beach have stalled.

The new state regulations pre-empt local governments from regulating medical cannabis dispensaries any more than they regulate pharmacies, blowing a hole in the zoning plans of Miami-Dade County and Miami Beach. The only other option for cities is to totally ban medical marijuana retail outlets.

Beach commissioners had given initial approval to regulations allowing one dispensary in each of the city’s main sections (South, Middle and North Beach) with restrictive zoning allowing such businesses to open only in certain commercial areas. The county had set up buffer zones separating dispensaries from each other and residential properties.

Now local governments have to make a choice. The Beach can take the zoning and the business license processes used for pharmacies and apply them to dispensaries. More than three would be allowed to open citywide — state law would prevent the city from limiting the total.

Modern Health Concepts owns South Florida’s only legal medical marijuana grow operation. The company recently allowed a Miami Herald photographer and reporter to the tour the facility.

On Wednesday, Beach commissioners moved fast on a workaround. They want to fast-track changes to zoning laws for pharmacies so that the previously proposed medical marijuana rules are applied to dispensaries and pharmacies.

Commissioner Michael Grieco proposed the change through an accelerated process, calling for a two-month moratorium while the zoning changes move through the planning board and back to the commission.

“We can accomplish that in 60 days,” he said.

The other option would have been for officials to completely ban medical marijuana dispensaries within their city limits. This would be a politically defiant option for Miami Beach, where 80 percent of voters favored Amendment 2 last year.

That didn’t stop one commissioner from proposing a ban. Joy Malakoff wants to prohibit medical cannabis dispensaries across the Beach.

“I can’t support a free-for-all of medical marijuana dispensaries in Miami Beach,” she said.

Miami Beach wants to regulate pharmacies so it can regulate medical pot | Miami Herald