Key West freezes medical pot dispensaries for nine months

Key West City Commissioners put a zoning freeze on medical marijuana dispensaries opening on the island.
Key West City Commissioners put a zoning freeze on medical marijuana dispensaries opening on the island. Keynoter

Key West city commissioners have agreed 6-0 to place a moratorium on the opening of medical marijuana dispensaries on the island for nine months as new state law unfolds.

Commissioner Richard Payne was absent for the Tuesday vote and the proposal requires a second approval at the 6 p.m. May 2 meeting at City Hall, 1300 White St.

Florida lawmakers have yet to write the final rules about medical marijuana growing, distribution and sale of medical marijuana after Amendment 2 passed last fall.

The moratorium would be retroactive to Feb 23.

“It’s a stop-gap so we can get Tallahassee and the Department of Health to give us some guidance and some regulations we can effectuate at the local level,” said interim Planning Director Patrick Wright, adding he expects the information from the state by July.

City staff plans to hold public hearings before drafting and presenting amended land development regulations that will address the location of dispensaries.

Dr. Jack Norris of Key West, who in the past three months has authorized five patients to receive it, supported the temporary zoning freeze but wants to ensure his actions didn’t fall under the moratorium, which the city attorney said don’t.

“Right now the dispensaries approved are driving the marijuana into Key West,” Norris said. “There is a person that comes down, a lady whose name I don’t know who has a security guard who carries a firearm. They drive from Orlando all the way down to Key West and go to the people’s houses.

Norris said he while his professional practice includes approving medical marijuana, “I’m not a personal fan of medical marijuana in general.”

The groups that deliver the marijuana are certified by the state, Norris said.

“It’s much easier to have a local dispensary,” he said.

Homeless shelter

A nonprofit’s proposal to build a new homeless shelter on city land to lease for $1 a year was withdrawn by City Manager Jim Scholl and shelved.

Currently the Southernmost Homeless Assistance League manages the city’s overnight shelter, which is next door to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office off College Road on Stock Island, for about $430,000 a year.

In 2013, to settle a lawsuit filed by nearby condo owners at Sunset Marina, the city agreed to relocate the 140-bed shelter. City leaders want to relocate the shelter down College Road to a site that formerly housed Easter Seals.

“The total cost of the project and limits on financing ... as far as making long-term commitments, we can’t do that as a municipal government,” Scholl said. “We need to separate the project into individual parts and look at a way to move forward.”

“I was a bit dismayed to see so many things rolled into one on this,” said Commissioner Margaret Romero.

Commissioner Billy Wardlow said the project needs to be put out to bid, given its $1 million price tag.

Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen