Pubdate: Sun, 28 Oct 2018 Source: Providence Journal, The (RI) Copyright: 2018 The Providence Journal Company Contact: http://www.providencejournal.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/352 FLORIDA VOTERS OK'D MEDICAL MARIJUANA, BUT SOME CITY LEADERS JUST WON'T HAVE IT 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 records. 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 pharmacies. 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."