FL: Orange Park Mulls Potential Temporary Moratorium On Medical Marijuana Businesses

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Orange Park – Town Council is preparing for the possibility that operators of medical marijuana treatment centers or dispensaries might want to set up shop in Orange Park if Florida voters approve state Amendment 2 in the Nov. 8 general election.

If approved, the amendment would expand the medical use of marijuana statewide for people with debilitating medical conditions. The state amendment also would authorize licensed businesses in Florida to acquire, produce and distribute marijuana for medical purposes. Amendment 2 is similar to a 2014 state constitutional amendment that failed because it didn’t meet the 60 percent approval threshold from voters.

Meanwhile, the Florida Department of Health recently established the Office of Compassionate Use to begin implementing a state law authorizing the prescribing and distribution of low-THC cannabis or medical cannabis for some patients diagnosed with serious, life-threatening medical conditions.

The council voting unanimously without comment Sept. 6 forwarded a potential ordinance renewing a temporary town moratorium on medical marijuana treatment centers and dispensaries within the town limits. Simultaneously, the council referred the issue to the town’s Planning and Zoning Board – instructing it to work with town staff to develop potential revisions to Orange Park’s land use development regulations to govern the operation and location of such establishments.

The potential moratorium was a first reading on the council’s consent agenda, when many items typically are adopted without discussion.

The council will hold a public hearing Oct. 4 on the proposed moratorium, Assistant Town Manager Sarah Campbell said.

Town Attorney Sam Garrison recommended the 1-year moratorium on the distribution or selling of medical marijuana, as well as having the Planning and Zoning Board come up with potential land use regulations for those businesses. It is similar to a 2014 moratorium enacted by the town which subsequently expired after that year’s constitutional amendment failed.

“We’re also working with the county and other municipalities within the county to make sure we’re all on the same page,” Garrison told the council.

Neither Orange Park, Green Cove Springs, Keystone Heights nor Clay County currently have land use or zoning regulations that allow medical marijuana treatment centers or dispensaries. However, both Clay County and Green Cove Springs officials said they’ve recently received very general inquiries about what zoning district would accommodate such a business.

“They haven’t been very specific. It was just asking generally,” Holly Coyle, county Economic and Development Services director, said of the few questions the county had gotten as of Sept. 7.

The town’s Planning and Zoning Board is expected to take up the issue at its Oct. 13 meeting and issue a non-binding recommendation to Town Council. The council then could vote on the measure at its October or November regular meeting, Campbell said.

Clay County’s other municipalities appear likely to follow Orange Park’s lead regarding a temporary moratorium.

Green Cove Springs City Council voting unanimously with one member absent Sept. 6 authorized City Attorney L.J. Arnold to draft an ordinance for a potential moratorium on medical marijuana treatment centers and dispensaries should Amendment 2 pass. Recommending that action, Arnold has been researching Orange Park’s measure as well as what other Florida cities, towns and counties are doing.

“Some have completely banned it right now until we find out more and so forth, and others are doing the moratorium to wait and see how the November election turns out to see if that might change the way we would look at zoning and things of that sort,” said Arnold, adding he thinks a temporary moratorium would be proper until the outcome of the amendment vote.

“There is a very limited number of dispensers as I understand it now, but should that amendment pass in November, it may be that there will be many, many more,” Arnold said. “Certainly, cities are not pre-empted by state legislation from dealing with the zoning aspects of dispensaries, but we are pre-empted from dealing with other aspects right now.”

Keystone Heights City Manager Scott Kornegay said city staff is researching the issue and expects to make a recommendation to the City Council in the next few weeks. The council hasn’t take a position on the issue, Kornegay said.

The city of Orlando as well as Orange County, city of Winter Garden and other communities statewide already have enacted similar moratoriums. Miami-Dade County recently adopted an ordinance forbidding medical marijuana dispensaries from opening within 500 feet of a residential area or within 1,000 feet of a school. The Miami-Dade ordinance also prohibits dispensaries from opening within a mile of each other.

A “yes” vote on Amendment 2 supports legalizing medical marijuana for individuals with specific debilitating diseases or comparable debilitating conditions as determined by a licensed state physician.

Voting “no” opposes the proposed legalization of medical marijuana, and keeps the state’s current more limited medical marijuana program in place.

As written, Amendment 2 is designed to allow medical marijuana to be used for treatment of people with cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, post-traumatic stress disorder, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. The amendment also would allow licensed physicians to certify patients for medical marijuana use after diagnosing them with some “other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those enumerated.”

Amendment 2 was would require the Florida Department of Health to regulate marijuana production and distribution centers and issue identification cards for patients and caregivers.

The current Florida medical marijuana law took effect Jan. 1, 2015. It allows access to non-smoked low-THC marijuana for qualified patients.

Amendment 2 would apply only to Florida law. It would not immunize violations of federal law or any non-medical use, possession or production of marijuana.

Organizations opposing Amendment 2 include the Florida Medical Association, Florida Chamber of Commerce, Drug Free Florida Committee and Palm Beach County Substance Awareness Coalition, according to Ballotpedia.

Among groups supporting Amendment 2 are Progress Florida, American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, Florida Democratic Party, Florida NAACP, the AFL-CIO and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employes, Ballotpedia also shows.

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Full Article: Orange Park Mulls Potential Temporary Moratorium On Medical Marijuana Businesses
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