Pubdate: Sat, 30 Jul 2016
Source: Palm Beach Post, The (FL)
Copyright: 2016 The Palm Beach Post
Author: Dara Kam, News Service of Florida


Dispensaries Say Local Officials Wary of New Business.

As pot shops start to sprout in Florida, cities are struggling with 
how - or whether - to regulate the state's new marijuana industry.

This week, the state's first medical-marijuana dispensary, operated 
by Trulieve, opened its doors to customers in Tallahassee. Health 
officials Wednesday gave the go-ahead to a second group, Surterra, to 
start distributing its cannabis products. Both marijuana operators 
have permission to deliver products statewide, and Surterra plans to 
open a dispensary next month in Tampa.

After competing for a handful of highly coveted "dispensing 
organization" licenses, pot operators now have to convince local 
officials to let them open retail storefronts where they can sell 
products to patients.

Several dispensing organization executives agree they've encountered 
"a mixed bag" when it comes to local regulations.

"Some communities have been great and are welcoming us with open arms 
and are maybe more educated in terms of what exactly the (state) law 
allows, and others are potentially just operating from a place of 
misinformation," Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers said. "So we do feel it's 
our responsibility to go in and try to educate those folks on what we 
really are offering, that this is a very important medicine for some 
of their most vulnerable citizens."

For now, the state's six dispensing organizations a re g rowi ng, 
processing and distributing marijuana and derivative products that 
are low in euphoria-inducing THC and high in CBD, as allowed under a 
2 014 law. Doctors can order the treatment for patients with chronic 
muscle spasms, cancer or severe forms of epilepsy.

Soon, the dispensing organizations will be able to sell full-strength 
marijuana for terminally ill patients, something added to the 2014 
law by legislators this year. This year's law in some ways helps set 
the stage for a medical marijuana proposal on the November ballot - 
similar to a measure that narrowly failed to pass in 2014 - that 
would vastly expand the number of patients eligible for the 
full-strength cannabis treatment.

State law bars counties or cities from restricting where marijuana 
can be grown or processed. But the law leaves it up to locals to 
decide how to regulate retail establishments where products are sold.

In the two years since Florida first legalized medical marijuana, 
more than two dozen cities have passed or considered ordinances 
regulating or banning the sales of cannabis products. As Florida's 
six medical marijuana operators start opening dispensaries throughout 
the state, more cities and counties are likely to consider similar 
regulations or outright prohibitions. And even more communities might 
join in, if the November initiative passes.

Like state lawmakers , many local officials have expressed concerns 
about "a pot shop on every corner," using marijuana sales in states 
such as Colorado and California as examples of what they want to avoid.

Many of the local ordinances were floated around the time the first 
medical marijuana proposal hit the ballot in 2014. Some observers 
believe that this year's measure could prompt more local governments 
to once again consider restricting where pot can be sold.

Miami - Dade County recently passed an ordinance prohibiting 
dispensaries from opening within 500 feet of a residential area or 
within 1,000 feet of a school.

Orlando recently approved a moratorium on any new pot dispensaries in 
the city, putting a lid on the three already approved, until after 
the November vote.

"There are some cities that are more welcoming but the classic city 
response is 'No, until we know more,'" said Susan Trevarthen, a 
lawyer who has worked on marijuana-related ordinances for numerous 
cities in South Fl or i da. "They're either examining how they can 
ban them or how they can regulate them to minimize the potential 
land-use compatibility issues within their community."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom