Pubdate: Mon, 26 Mar 2018
Source: Orlando Sentinel (FL)
Copyright: 2018 Orlando Sentinel
Author: Ryan Gillespie


A company that planned to open a medical marijuana dispensary south of
downtown Orlando is challenging the city's ordinance regulating such
businesses, alleging it violates state law.

Surterra Florida, which operates five dispensaries statewide, filed
the suit in Orange County Circuit Court last week and is asking a
judge to rule Orlando's law is "invalid and unenforceable."
Tallahassee Attorney William Hall, who filed the suit, is also seeking
a temporary injunction to keep the city from enforcing the law while
the court rules.

The company had already leased a storefront at 1743 S. Orange Avenue
in the city's SODO district when it was told by Orlando officials last
month that it wouldn't be able to operate there because of its
proximity to a residential neighborhood.

"Surterra has spent a significant amount of money on building and
other expenses," the suit states. "Surterra is losing thousands of
dollars per day that this location sits empty."

While the potential store faces a busy stretch of Orange Avenue,
directly behind it is Hollenbeck Drive which is lined with
single-family homes.

Orlando spokeswoman Jessica Garcia said the city was aware of a
potential lawsuit, but it hadn't yet been served with the court papers.

Monica Russell, a spokeswoman for Surterra, said the city has "shown
an interest in working together to service more patientsaE&we're
really hopeful that we'll have a resolution as soon as possible."

Under Florida law, local governments can either outright ban medical
marijuana dispensaries, or approve them while not regulating them any
stricter than pharmacies.

But days before state lawmakers passed their rules in June 2017,
Orlando officials approved their own restrictions on marijuana
treatment centers. Those prohibit the centers from opening within 200
feet of a residential zoning district, within 1,000 feet of a
religious facility, school, park or within a mile of another medical
cannabis facility.

At the time, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said the city, though still
studying the issue, thought its rules would be grandfathered in as
they were approved ahead of the state law.

But Surterra contends the local ordinance conflicts with state law and
"seeks to regulate an area the state has expressly preempted."

Prior to being told by officials that the dispensary couldn't operate,
Surterra had already been granted approval by the Florida Department
of Health to operate a treatment center at the Orange Avenue location,
the suit states. It also was issued a business tax receipt for medical
cannabis sales by Orlando, it contends.

In 2016, Florida voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum to
legalize medical marijuana for patients with cancer, epilepsy,
glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, post-traumatic stress disorder, multiple
sclerosis, Parkinson's disease and other debilitating conditions.

However, patients must be prescribed the marijuana by a doctor.

Locally, Orange County made headlines last year by approving
dispensaries within its jurisdiction, while cities such as Apopka,
Winter Garden and Winter Park banned them.
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