As the Florida Department of Health writes rules regulating medical marijuana dispensaries, local governments like Marathon are passing temporary bans until they know more.
The City Council last week passed a six-month moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries in the city. A second and final hearing will be voted on at the council’s February meeting. Who can open a dispensary, where and when are the questions local governments will have to wait to have answered.
Marathon is one of more than 80 municipalities in Florida that have passed temporary bans on dispensaries, estimates attorney Richard Blau, head of statewide law firm GrayRobinson’s Regulated Products Practice Group. Blau advises businesses in regulated industries, including Florida’s medical marijuana industry.
“A lot of communities feel an ordinance places some sort of control over where the medical marijuana can be dispensed, like liquor stores and bars restricted to certain hours,” he said. “It’s prudent for them to want to study responsibly the best way to utilize their zoning and powers to make the product accessible to people who really need it but not allow it to get out of control. Without appropriate regulation, it’s possible that a free market could result in a proliferation of medical marijuana treatment centers.”
Six out of 28 dispensaries were approved by the Florida Department of Health to cultivate, process and dispense low-THC cannabis and medical cannabis after the passage of state constitutional Amendment 2 on Nov. 8. The closest dispensary is Modern Health Concepts in Miami.
Amendment 2 allows medical marijuana as a treatment for patients with specific diseases and became effective Jan. 3.
Asked whether there will be another registration process for businesses looking to cultivate the plant, Blau said it’s for Department of Health and the state Legislature to decide in the two-month session that starts March 7.
Whether the six currently approved dispensaries will be able to open sister stores throughout the state will also be up to the legislature, he said.
“It’s understandable that this is confusing,” Blau said, adding regulations will become more clear in the months to come.
Katie Atkins: 305-440-3219