The town council of Orange Park, Florida banned medical marijuana dispensaries within town limits as the state of Florida permits each individual town to determine. Zoning rules for towns as dictated by the state threw a number of towns off initially and while their intentions may have been to permit dispensaries, they basically banned dispensaries initially just to get more time to think.
Other cities and towns have elected to ban because they do not believe medical marijuana meets the values of the residents, but Orange Park is now considering permitting the dispensaries. Jacksonville, just to the north of Orange Park has already had one dispensary setup shop.
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ORANGE PARK | Town Council soon will take up whether to lift Orange Park’s moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries, and if so, where such establishments may open up shop within the town limits.
The Orange Park Planning and Zoning Board voting 3-1 with one member absent July 13 recommended the council allow such dispensaries provided they comply with certain conditions. The board’s recommendation is non-binding.
Under Florida law, medical marijuana dispensaries are treated as pharmacies for zoning purposes. That means wherever a regular pharmacy is allowed to operate, so is a medical marijuana dispensary.
The Orange Park Planning and Zoning Board recommended that pharmacies – and therefore medical marijuana dispensaries – be allowed only in Commercial General, Commercial Intensive and Planned Unit Development zoning districts in the town.
The board also recommended that a pharmacy/dispensary may not be located within 500 feet of another pharmacy. However, a variance from that provision might be allowed depending on the circumstances, according to the recommendation.
The dispensaries wouldn’t be allowed in Commercial Neighborhood zoning districts. In other words, those businesses wouldn’t be allowed in office spaces or neighborhood stores, Town Attorney Sam Garrison said after the Planning and Zoning Board meeting.
As a result of the board’s recommendation, Garrison is drawing up a potential ordinance for Town Council consideration. It potentially could be presented for first and second reading on Aug. 1 and Sept. 5, according to Assistant Town Manager Sarah Campbell.
Orange Park currently has three pharmacies operating within its town limits – two are in Commercial General zoning district and one is in a Planned Unit Development district, according to Stephen Smith, town Economic and Community Development director.
Florida voters Nov. 8 overwhelmingly – 71 percent statewide – approved Amendment 2, which expands medical use of marijuana for people with debilitating medical conditions. It also authorizes licensed businesses in Florida to acquire, produce and distribute marijuana for medical purposes.
Clay County voters passed Amendment 2 with more than 70 percent approval.
The state Legislature in its recent session approved implementation of the medical marijuana law.
However, Orange Park Town Council, the Clay County Commission, Green Cove Springs City Council and other Northeast Florida cities and counties had imposed temporary moratoriums on medical marijuana dispensaries – currently still in effect – as state lawmakers and local governments sorted out the issue.