Pubdate: Sun, 28 Oct 2018
Source: Providence Journal, The (RI)
Copyright: 2018 The Providence Journal Company



Several Florida cities that temporarily banned pot dispensaries now
keep them out permanently.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Nearly two years after Florida voters
overwhelmingly approved medical marijuana, some cities' temporary
stops to cannabis businesses have turned into outright bans.

Temporary bans in Boca Raton, Coral Springs, Margate, Tamarac and
Pembroke Pines have become permanent, effectively keeping dispensaries
out of certain communities and drawing concerns from medical
marijuana's proponents. They join at least seven other South Florida
cities with bans.

Benjamin Pollara, who was a political consultant in the 2014 and 2016
referendums to allow medical marijuana, said city governments are
subverting the will of the people. More than 70 percent of Florida
voters in 2016 agreed that medical patients with certain illnesses
should have access to medical marijuana.

"You've got the biggest population center in the state and patient
access has been seriously limited by these local governments passing
bans, and I think it's really shameful," Pollara said.

State rules adopted in 2017 left cities with two options: ban
dispensaries outright, or regulate their locations to the same degree
that pharmacies are regulated, which in most cases means allowing them
in all commercial districts. The only restriction is that they must be
at least 500 feet from a public or private school.

In addition to the places where temporary bans have become permanent,
other cities that ban them are Delray Beach, Highland Beach, Hillsboro
Beach, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Royal Palm Beach, Sea Ranch Lakes and
Southwest Ranches.

Of the 64 dispensaries in Florida, 11 have opened across South
Florida, with three in Broward County, three in Palm Beach County and
five in Miami-Dade County, according to the state Health Department

Even Lake Worth, the first South Florida city to have a dispensary, is
rolling up the welcome mat, not wanting to attract more than its fair
share. The city so far has two dispensaries and last month voted to
ban any new ones.

"The state didn't put the right regulations in place," said Lake Worth
Mayor Pam Triolo. Perhaps Lake Worth allowed them too quickly, he
said. "It put us in a very tricky predicament."

Nearly two years since voters said they wanted medical marijuana, some
cities have just recently started moving toward allowing dispensaries
or tip-toeing toward more conversations about whether to allow them.

_ Sunrise in August voted to allow them, after approving numerous
120-day moratoriums that were extended again and again.

_ Hollywood City Commission last month unanimously agreed to allow
them after an initial review. The final approval is expected soon.

_ Boca Raton's leaders agreed on Monday to hold another workshop on
the issue in the coming months.

City leaders have complained they've had limited options after the
Legislature passed guidelines for the dispensaries.

"This is a prime example of how home rule is taken away," said
Hollywood Commissioner Traci Callari. "Once you open the door to one,
you open the door to many. The last thing we need in Hollywood is a
medical marijuana dispensary on every corner."

Also, some cities have argued that people can have marijuana delivered
delivery if they need it. Under that reasoning, dispensaries shouldn't
open in every town.

Because marijuana is still illegal under federal regulations, banking
and credit cards can't be involved. Medical marijuana is a cash-only
business, which is widely regarded as a magnet for crime.

But authorities say there haven't been problems in some communities
where they've opened. Palm Beach County Sheriff's Capt. Todd Baer in
Lake Worth said no crimes have been reported at Lake Worth's two
dispensaries. And there only have been three or four calls for service
because of reports of suspicious people.

"Most of my fears have been allayed," Baer told city leaders. "The
only fear I have is robbery because it's a cash business. ... Both
(dispensaries) run a very professional organization."

Margate City Commissioner Lesa Peerman predicted that state rules
eventually will broaden marijuana's legality to render the dispensary
bans moot.

She belongs to a Florida League of Cities committee that supports
legislation that would give cities more regulation over marijuana
shops. That would give cities more latitude than the two current
options, to ban them or regulate them no more than regular commercial

Deerfield Beach Commissioner Todd Drosky said he's already hearing
from his constituents uncertain about a third dispensary that's in the
pipeline to open in his city. Deerfield embraced dispensaries,
refusing to make its initial ban on them permanent, in spite of some
asking city leaders to wait and see.

The dispensaries, he said, "have only opened recently - so I'm not
ready to play judge and jury yet."