South Florida cities push pause on expansion of medical marijuana industry
As polls closed and Florida voters expanded medical marijuana laws, the Boca Raton Council cast its own vote on election night: to delay pot from hitting their area.
The city on Tuesday extended a temporary ban on marijuana dispensaries and treatment centers. Boca’s freeze is one of at least a half-dozen across South Florida as municipalities make breathing room to consider zoning regulations and social impacts of the medical marijuana industry.
“We owe it to our residents and the people of our city to understand the implications of it,” said Christine Thrower, the manager for the village of Golf.
What cities have enacted:
• Boca Raton, Delray Beach and the village of Golf have yearlong prohibitions in place. Deerfield Beach, Pompano Beach and Hallandale Beach have six-month freezes, although Hallandale’s is set to expire in January.
• Hollywood and North Palm Beach are considering temporary bans or other regulations on the industry, officials said.
• Many cities, including Boca and Delray, already had a freeze in place because of a similar ballot measure in 2014 that failed.
Marijuana advocates say the temporary bans are premature and based on outdated ideals. The people have spoken, and city officials would do well to listen, said Karen Goldstein, executive director of the Florida chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
“They work for the residents and if the residents overwhelmingly support the rights of patient access to cannabis, then the City Commission should reflect that in their decision,” she said.
Voters approved Amendment 2 on Tuesday night with 71 percent support allowing marijuana use for people with cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, PTSD, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, multiple sclerosis “or other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class.”
The latest measure clarified “debilitating” conditions and added requirements for parental consent.
The law goes into effect in January. After that, the Florida Department of Health will have six months to draft regulations for the industry.
Several city officials said they put moratoriums in place to allow time for research and, in part, to see how the state regulates the industry before crafting their own local ordinances.
“We, as a city in this matter, are a creature of the state,” said Boca Raton Deputy Mayor Michael Mullaugh, at Tuesday’s council meeting. “And we want to hear what the Legislature decides before we decide to put together regulations that will have no effect because they are overwritten by the Legislature.”
Officials in Wilton Manors took another approach when they put in place zoning regulations ahead of the state’s rules.
“We were monitoring the changing status of legalized marijuana and wanted to make sure we had zoning regulations in place prior to a business wanting to move into the city,” said Leigh Ann Henderson, Wilton Manors city manager.
Still others say medical marijuana could negatively impact the community.
“Delray has more than its fair share of drug-related problems ranging from the proliferation of unregulated sober homes to the overdose issues,” said Delray Beach Mayor Cary Glickstein. “I just think we are erring on the side of caution and not adding more to the mix.”
Goldstein said temporary bans could push those in need to buy medical marijuana in another city or on the black market.
“As far as these moratoriums go, I think it’s more of that old reefer madness,” she said. “We want patients to have safe access.”
Boca Raton council member Robert Weinroth said medical marijuana patients who live in the city would still be able to use their medicine, they just couldn’t buy it in the city.
“So we’re not restricting someone who lives in this city from having the availability of the cannabis, it would be that there is not any dispensing in the city,” he said during a commission meeting last month.