Oct 21, 2014
Sun Sentinel - The rush to delay or stop medical marijuana dispensaries from opening in some cities is on, even before Florida voters decide the marijuana measure on Nov. 4..
Coconut Creek and Lighthouse Point have given at least initial approval to moratoriums that will stop businesses that grow, sell or dispense medical pot from opening for six months to a year.
Pembroke Pines and Deerfield Beach commissioners soon will consider similar proposals to delay businesses from opening.
Cooper City and Plantation went further: Both cities have given initial approval to an outright ban on marijuana businesses.
It's not a rejection of medical marijuana in theory, Cooper City commissioners said.
"We're in opposition to it being sold, grown or transported here," Commissioner James Curran said. "That's what we're trying to do. We're trying to keep it out of our city, not grown in our fields, not sold in our stores, not distributed in our pharmacies."
If voters approve the amendment legalizing medical marijuana next month, the use of marijuana would expand across Florida.
Because it is unclear how fast the state would let the industry grow, officials countywide have expressed concerns about how many dispensaries will be headed their way and where the businesses would open their doors.
So cities are taking action and planning ahead.
"If the state tells us we can't ban it, that's when legal steps in," Curran said.
Plantation also banned marijuana businesses outright. The city's law says that marijuana tends to attract crime, and that Plantation wants to protect residents from that.
Still, Plantation's ban would go away automatically if Florida's medical marijuana regulations end up saying that cities can't prohibit such businesses from opening.
If Plantation's ban doesn't stick, the city's law also already includes rules regulating everything from where marijuana businesses can open, to how much security they need, to what hours a business can dispense its product.
Plantation wanted to be "proactive rather than reactive," Mayor Diane Bendekovic said.
"We're ready either way," she said.
Amendment 2 supporters say cities that enact moratoriums could be missing out on helping sick residents.
"By issuing moratoriums they are driving patients to other surrounding cities or forcing them to continue to get medication from the black market, which defeats the whole purpose of Amendment 2," said Karen Goldstein, director of the Florida chapter of Norml, a group that advocates for the rights of medical marijuana users. "What these cities are doing shows a complete lack of compassion for their residents."
Mayor Lisa Aronson of Coconut Creek said it's definitely not the case that a moratorium means the city is against medical marijuana. Coconut Creek's commission is largely in favor of it.
"This just gives us time to resolve all those issues about where the businesses can be," she said.
Coconut Creek plans to use its moratorium to resolve zoning and land-use questions, she said.
Some cities plan to welcome medical pot businesses with ready-made regulations.
Lauderdale Lakes banned medical marijuana from all zoning categories except industrial. Hollywood has a similar law written up, and scheduled it for approval Nov. 5, depending on whether the amendment succeeds, said spokeswoman Raelin Storey.
Miramar's attorneys are working on land-use regulations, said Mayor Lori Moseley. Other regulations probably will come later, but the city plans to start with where the businesses can open.
Other cities have taken no action and have no explicit plans to do so. Fort Lauderdale is one of those, said city spokesman Chaz Adams. Pembroke Park commissioners decided during a workshop to wait and see what happens before doing anything.
Pompano Beach has a moratorium drafted, which it will consider in December if the amendment succeeds, said Mayor Lamar Fisher. "Why go through the exercise if it doesn't pass?" he asked.