Pubdate: Thu, 07 Aug 2014
Source: Palm Beach Post, The (FL)
Copyright: 2014 The Palm Beach Post
Author: John Lantigua
Page: A1


Palm Beach County leaders and local city officials are already
discussing possible effects and necessary actions if Amendment 2
passes in November and the use of medical marijuana greatly expands in

The Delray Beach City Commission placed an item on its agenda
recently, calling for a six-month moratorium on the opening of any
medical marijuana-related business, but the item was withdrawn until
changes in the law are closer to becoming a reality. Most polls
indicate Amendment 2 will get the 60 percent of the vote it needs to

Some other Florida cities are not waiting. Several have passed
ordinances limiting where dispensaries can be located. Flagler Beach,
in northeast Florida, has banned drive-through facilities, loitering
on dispensary property and drinking of alcohol on such premises.

State and local leaders say Amendment 2 could affect traffic, law
enforcement, fire rescue services and electrical grids, and will
trigger decisions on zoning and, possibly, local taxes on such businesses.

"This whole thing has a ton of moving parts to it," says Ryan Padgett,
assistant general counsel of the Florida League of Cities in
Tallahassee. "We want our cities to have the power to regulate this on
the local level as they see fit."

Richard Radcliffe, Palm Beach County League of Cities executive
director, agrees.

"This a home-rule issue," he said. "I think there are some cities
looking forward to this and some that see it as more trouble than it's
worth. There is a whole litany of things that will have to happen if
they do embrace it."

North Palm Beach Councilman Bill Manuel said that what his city does
will depend on local residents.

"We'll have to see what our voters want," he said.

In May, the Florida Legislature approved the use of "Charlotte's Web,"
a non-euphoric strain of cannabis that can treat epilepsy, seizures
and persistent spasms, and pain from cancer and cancer treatments.
Gov. Rick Scott signed it and it takes effect Jan. 1. Five large
nurseries spread around the state will be licensed to grow and
distribute medical cannabis, largely in liquid and pill form. They
must pay $150,000 for the license and post a $5 million bond.

Amendment 2 would allow Florida doctors to certify the use of
marijuana - including euphoric marijuana in smokable form - to
patients who suffer from a longer list of maladies. They include
Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig's disease,
glaucoma, hepatitis C, HIV, AIDS, Crohn's disease "or other conditions
for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would
likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient." Often
mentioned is post-traumatic stress disorder. Supporters of Amendment 2
say some patients are better served by smoking marijuana because it
acts much more quickly than other delivery systems to suppress pain
and nausea.

The Florida Department of Health estimates that if the amendment
passes, 1,800 dispensaries could open statewide.

Twenty-two other states and Washington D.C., allow the use of medical
marijuana and two of those - Colorado and Washington - also allow
recreational use. Selling marijuana is still a federal crime. That has
kept credit card firms from doing business with the industry and many
banks from accepting their deposits. Consequently, legal marijuana
sellers do much of their business in cash, giving rise to law
enforcement concerns. Cash business, crime

On July 16, the U.S. House voted in effect that the U.S. Treasury
Department should stop interfering with financial institutions that do
business with marijuana businesses in states where marijuana is legal.
But the Senate hasn't followed suit and there are doubts that it will
pass in that chamber.

"I've read accounts of robberies and burglaries of those businesses in
those states because of the cash they have," said Palm Beach County
Sheriff Ric Bradshaw. But he says he has a greater concern.

Bradshaw supports use of non-euphoric marijuana but is concerned that
some physicians may not follow guidelines as to who they certify as
eligible for the euphoric product, and for what quantity, and some of
those patients could go into the business of selling the drug.

"After two years of going after pill mills, OxyContin, law enforcement
may be back in the business, this time going after marijuana mills,"
he said.

For that reason, he and other Florida law enforcement leaders oppose
Amendment 2.

Concerns have also been raised about fire hazards if marijuana growing
facilities are not properly designed and run, because they use intense

"That's one thing that we heard from people we talked to in Colorado,"
says Padgett of the Florida League of Cities. "These places can be

Hard on electric grid

The idea of intense lighting also raises concerns about electrical
usage and the pressure that demand can put on power grids.

"We already have times during the summer when we have issues with too
much electricity being used," Radcliffe said.

In Colorado, growers must pay for necessary upgrades in transformers
and power lines near their businesses.

Zoning will be an in issue for the county and cities that host
marijuana-related facilities. A Health Department draft plan would
require that dispensaries be at least 500 feet from schools.

"But cities might want to make it farther," Radcliffe

"And we might also look at the distance from recreational areas and
parks," Manuel said.

Todd Bonlarron, legislative affairs director for Palm Beach County,
wonders whether such worries among law enforcement and political
leaders will persist as Floridians acclimate to the idea of medical

"After all, we have pharmacies on corners everywhere that sell drugs
to people who need them for their medical conditions," he said.

He also expresses concern about municipalities that are talking about
zoning medical marijuana dispensaries only for industrial areas,
especially since many users will be senior citizens.

"The people who need it, should they be made to go into warehouse
districts?" he asked. "They need to be treated with dignity."

At the same time, Bonlarron assumes cities won't want dispensaries in
single-family neighborhoods or in certain retail areas, so zoning will
be necessary. He said Delray Beach is not the only city considering a
moratorium on the opening of marijuana-related businesses until
leaders get a handle on possible effects.

To pay for some of these effects, cities might seek to levy taxes on
the sale of marijuana. Other states have allowed municipalities to do
so. The Health Department says the state has not yet addressed that

Many supporters of Amendment 2 say other states are already playing
host to the medical marijuana business and Florida can learn from
their mistakes and their successes.

Bradshaw says he thinks what can be learned from other states is to
reject Amendment 2.

Lake Worth Commissioner Andy Amoroso, a supporter of the measure,

"A lot states are already doing this," he said. "They have it down and
we can learn from them."
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