On Wednesday, December 14th, the City Commission voted 5-0 to move forward with a moratorium on the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries.
The decision was based on a chain of events that began in 2014.
In 2014, Governor Rick Scott signed the Charlotte’s Web bill into law, legalizing medical marijuana for use in Florida. The bill limits the use of the drug to the treatment of patients suffering from “cancer or a physical medical condition that chronically produces symptoms of seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms.”
In March 2016, House Bill 307 was signed into law that expanded the use of medical marijuana beyond the 2014 legislation. This expansion, which is limited to terminally ill patients, allows any form of medical marijuana to be used. The 2016 legislation allows not only low-THC medical marijuana, but also marijuana containing the psychoactive ingredient THC that produces the “high” effects commonly associated with the drug.
However, both the 2014 and 2016 legislation prohibit smoking medical marijuana except through use of a vaporizer.
In November 2016, Florida Constitutional Amendment 2 was passed, which will allow the use of medical marijuana for an expanded list of medical conditions.
Amendment 2 provides for “Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers” (MMTCs). An MMTC is defined in the Amendment as an entity that acquires, cultivates, possesses, processes (including development of related products such as food, tinctures, aerosols, oils, or ointments), transfers, transports, sells, distributes, dispenses, or administers marijuana, products containing marijuana, related supplies, or educational materials to qualifying patients or their caregivers and is registered by the Department of Health.
There is considerable uncertainty as to how the newly expanded medical marijuana program will be established in Florida.
Due to this uncertainty, a number of cities are implementing or considering implementing moratoriums to halt new medical marijuana development.
City Commissioner Gil Ziffer believes the six-month moratorium will “give us some time to figure out what’s going to happen, get some guidance from the Legislature—they don’t even come back until March.”
Mayor Andrew Gillum supported the moratorium but voiced concern about allowing state lawmakers to dictate city policy.
“I’m going to go with the moratorium language tonight, but I will also admit that I am really not a huge fan of letting the Legislature tell local governments what is in our interest and our priorities,” Gillum says.
The moratorium requires the city to stop taking applications for new dispensaries; the ordinance won’t officially take effect until the Commission holds two public hearings. The dispensaries already permitted will not be allowed to expand if the moratorium passes.