Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Many Factors Affect Medical-Pot Outlets | Communities Should Set Strict Rules on Dispensaries

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Many Factors Affect Medical-Pot Outlets | Communities Should Set Strict Rules on Dispensaries

Article excerpt

OUR VIEW

When the Sarasota city commissioners discussed potential regulations for medical-marijuana dispensaries Monday, they sounded much like a group of real-estate agents, focusing on location, location, location.

It is, indeed, important for the city, and other municipalities and counties, to have effective local ordinances that thoughtfully determine where dispensaries -- which will serve as part medical facilities, part retail outlets -- can be located.

City Attorney Robert Fournier provided commissioners with drafts of two possible ordinances. One option would allow dispensaries in areas suitable for medical complexes/offices, such as the area where Sarasota Memorial Hospital's main campus is situated -- although more sites would likely be necessary, given the intensity of SMH's use of its property. Another option, as Zach Murdock reported in the Herald-Tribune, would be to adopt a law similar to the city's ordinance for pain-management clinics (which restricts their proximity to certain types of land uses, such as schools).

Also included in the options are permitting, registration, licensing and other forms of regulation -- all of which are sensible and would most likely stand the test of any legal challenges.

Yet we urge the city of Sarasota and other local governments to consider additional factors in the formulation of their ordinances. Those regulations must serve valid public purposes and be in compliance with the terms of the medical-marijuana amendment to Florida's constitution that was overwhelmingly approved by 71 percent of voters in November. Amendment 2, as it was labeled, provides for "use of marijuana for debilitating medical conditions."

The Florida Department of Health is charged with implementing statewide regulations for six authorized "dispensing organizations" and the Legislature is considering whether to adopt additional regulatory laws. But, for now, local governments have the authority to develop their own ordinances, related not only to siting and permitting but to other factors.

Because of the diversity of Florida's communities, economies and development patterns, we hope the Legislature -- in taking up the authorization of Amendment 2's provisions -- will not pre-empt local governments from enacting reasonable regulations regarding siting, zoning, the number of dispensaries per capita and the qualifications of sellers. …

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