Pubdate: Wed, 07 Feb 2018
Source: Sarasota Herald-Tribune (FL)
Copyright: 2018 Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Author: Chris Anderson


After a unanimous vote of support by the Sarasota City Commission,
medical marijuana dispensaries will now be operational in the city and
those with prescriptions will be able to utilize them immediately.

State legislation had preempted the city's ability to regulate the
dispensaries, which led to commissioners placing a temporary ban on
them until a solution could be found.

That solution happened last month when commissioners approved a plan
to change zoning codes, paving the way for those prescribed the drug
for various medical ailments to obtain it locally.

After four Sarasota residents spoke in favor of the dispensaries on
Monday night -- and no one from the public voiced opposition -- the
five commissioners took a final vote and passed the resolution.

The 20 dispensaries already in existence can now operate and there is
the potential more will be added. Only medical marijuana in the form
of vapors, oils and edibles will be dispensed.

At their previous meeting last month, commissioners voted to
differentiate between the zoning of free-standing pharmacies and
accessory-use pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens. The city will now
allow dispensaries where free-standing pharmacies are zoned. That
means the city will be able to regulate where the dispensaries
incorporate themselves and how many will be allowed to operate.

The zoning codes were changed in four different categories and
dispensaries are now allowed in the downtown core, commercial general
area, commercial shopping center-regional and intensive commercial
district. Dispensaries will not be allowed on St. Armands Circle,
which is zoned commercial-tourist.

The zoning change allows the city to prevent the downtown area, for
example, from being overrun by dispensaries.

Vice mayor Liz Alpert has said that since medicinal marijuana passed
in 2016 she has heard very little negative feedback from residents and
most of her constituents have been supportive.

Sarasota resident Olivia Babis was among those who spoke in favor on
Tuesday night. She uses cannabis oil to ease serious migraine
headaches suffered in a car accident. A major benefit for Sarasota
allowing dispensaries, she said, is that it will logistically help the
disabled community, which is a high-target demographic for medicinal
marijuana use.

For disabled people who can't drive, or deal with seizures or spasms
that prohibit driving, the only option available was to travel to
Bradenton or Venice to obtain medicinal marijuana and that difficult
for some as far as access and time-wise.

It can take up to six hours for the para-transit system to reach
Bradenton, Babis said, and now that obstacle has been removed.
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