The challenges to permit medical marijuana treatment centers in Florida counties and cities continue. Coral Springs already had a moratorium until November on treatment centers and they have now extended it until next years. Officials cited zoning issues as being the biggest reason for the delay but others commented on concerns about crime associated with the outlets due to the well known cash they often have on hand in the stores. Are crime concerns and zoning issues just excuses from officials that are prejudiced against medical marijuana, or did Florida do a bad job implementing its laws?
Coral Springs has followed the lead of many cities in South Florida and extended the existing moratorium on medical marijuana dispensing facilities until Jan. 17 next year. This is the second extension of the moratorium, which was initially imposed in December 2016 and extended in June.
At last week’s City Commission meeting, officials voted 4-1 in support of extending the moratorium. In Margate, officials decided at a city commission workshop to extend the city’s existing moratorium on such dispensaries, which was to expire Nov. 17, one more time.
“The state legislature has still not determined what areas of the city would be required to accommodate these uses whether it be the hospital district, if the city has one, industrial or commercial,” Margate City Attorney Douglas Gonzales said.
I am for medical marijuana and having dispensaries,” said Margate Commissioner Lesa Peerman. “What a moratorium can do is now you will be guided by the state… It is an all cash business; they are going to put them out in the open.”
Coral Springs Commissioner Joy Carter said that she had received emails from residents who wanted to know why the city was not letting medical marijuana dispensing facilities open even though residents had voted overwhelmingly in its favor. “In the larger scheme of things, it is going to be more negative than positive,” she said. States such as Colorado and Oregon that have legalized marijuana have seen a spike in homelessness and overdose deaths, she added.
The city’s police department is worried that letting such dispensaries open would end up harming the city. An increase in population and homelessness, a spike in robberies, and a surge in the number of traffic fatalities due to drugged driving are some of the problems that communities with medical marijuana facilities face, Deputy Chief Shawn Baker told city officials earlier this year.
In June this year, Coral Springs adopted an ordinance extending the moratorium on such facilities until sixty days after the Florida Department of Health introduced rules for medical marijuana. State regulations allow ten medical marijuana treatment centers by Oct. 3, in addition to the six that have already been approved. Each treatment center can operate up to 25 dispensaries.
Treatment centers or dispensing facilities cannot be located within 500 feet of schools. While local bodies can ban dispensing facilities outright, they cannot introduce ordinances that are more restrictive than those that relate to pharmacies.
Parkland and Southwest Ranches have banned dispensing facilities outright while Coconut Creek, Plantation, Dania Beach, Deerfield Beach and Weston have existing regulations. Seventy six percent of voters in Coral Springs had voted in support of medical marijuana.