Pubdate: Wed, 22 Oct 2014
Source: Sarasota Herald-Tribune (FL)
Copyright: 2014 Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Author: Christi Womack
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


The cities of North Port and Venice are looking to limit medical
marijuana operations within their boundaries, but are carefully
looking to other communities at ways to do so.

The North Port City Commission during a special meeting Tuesday was
poised to pass an ordinance, but chose instead to send it to the
Planning and Zoning Board for further input.

Voters statewide will decide Nov. 4 on Amendment 2, which will
legalize the use of medical marijuana.

"The intent of this ordinance is to get the discussion started in the
City of North Port, how we are going to prepare ourselves if that is a
popular vote," City Attorney Mark Moriarty said.

Commissioners decided there was no hurry after learning from Moriarty
and city staff that, if passed, the law takes affect Jan. 1, the
earliest marijuana could be available was next October, a year from

The North Port ordinance will be strict and mirror its regulations on
pain management clinics that are written into the Unified Land
Development Code.

Vice Mayor Rhonda DiFranco, retired from a law enforcement career,
said she recalled the beginning of pill mills and how they began -
inside the doctors' offices.

That is why they met Tuesday, she said, to decide to put marijuana
operations where they needed to be, not in the middle of any

Zoning restrictions in the city would limit any operation to a
commercial and industrial area near Interstate 75 and Yorkshire
Street. Several other stipulations, including a 1,500-foot radius from
schools, churches and residences, would apply.

Commission Linda Yates suggested a moratorium on any medical marijuana

"Why not just say we're gong to be a dry city for the next four
years?" DiFranco said.

Commissioner Cheryl Cook said the commission previously determined the
the majority was not in favor of a moratorium.

The matter will come back to the commission after the Planning and
Zoning Board reviews the ordinance.

In Venice on Tuesday, the planning commissioners, with input from City
Attorney David Persson and Community Development Director Jeff Shrum,
decided to wait and see the results of the November election.

Venice officials are watching what state and county governments and
other communities are doing.

If the amendment does pass, they will model an ordinance after the
city's strict pain management clinic regulations.

"If it becomes legal, it's legal," Commissioner Helen Moore said. "It
won't really matter how people feel about it; it will be medicine."

Persson said they can work quickly on details about distribution,
manufacturing and growing, perhaps calling for a short moratorium as
they sort out details.

"To totally prohibit, woudn't we deprive the city of some tax
revenues?" Commissioner Charles Newsom asked.

The attorney said there are several unknowns until the state begins
working on regulations in January should voters approve the amendment.

"There's a cloud hanging over the marijuana issue," Persson said,
eliciting some chuckles from commissioners.  
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