At the February 7, 2017 Gulfport City Council meeting, we voted on Resolution No. 2017-14, "imposing a moratorium on the establishment of medical marijuana dispensing facilities and treatment centers." The intent of the Resolution is to enable City Staff sufficient time to "review, study, and comply with all applicable codes, regulations, laws, and policies." This decision is in line with numerous other municipalities. It is important to note that access to medical marijuana for patients is critically important. Accordingly, the Department of Health and the State Legislature are busy developing the rules to effectively implement Amendment No. 2. The moratoriums are temporary, including Gulfport's.
On a recent call with the Florida League of Cities, which included City Staff, Law Enforcement and other experts, some of the key issues that cities must be aware of and ready to address via zoning and other ordinances include:
Amendment No. 2 establised a 6 month deadline (August 3, 2017) for the DOH to issues regulations; patient ID cards and treatment facility licenses are to issue by November 3, 2017
Cities must develop “marijuana facilities zoning codes” (classifying all three); some may look to treat marijuana facilities in the same light as facilities serving/dispensing alcohol; fire safety codes must be updated to address medical marijuana use within facilities, public areas and the workplace
Since treatment facilities are able to administer, dispense and store marijuana, city codes must address odors, security, waste disposal, ventilation, storage, etc.
Growing facilities will cultivate marijuana (not dispense or administer) and cities must modify “fire safety plans and fire codes” (these facilities require extremely powerful and high electrical needs); they will also be required to request a “certificate of use” from cities, for use in their state applications; growing facilities are highly industrial, with high chemicals use
Cities must also develop appropriate rules and policies for the work environment; cities can potentially be sued if a card-carrying person is prevented from using marijuana in the workplace; personnel manuals must address how to respond to individuals who may be impaired, as well as the handling of machinery or driving city vehicles
Cities must address and develop ordinances specifically on proximity to schools and churches
The Legislature must also develop and work with DOH on rules and regulations; Senator Dudley proposes to expand the number of dispensaries and ensure less red-tape; the Bradley Bill proposes to continue current path and consider more dispensaries as more people sign-up; the Brandes Bill (SB 614) develops a regulatory framework for medical marijuana -- increase the number of treatment centers, issue 4 distinct licenses (grow, process, transport or dispense), limit dispensary license to one for every 25,000 people in a county, give local governments ability to prohibit dispensaries within city limits and no advertising
Up in the air is the issue of taxing or not taxing medical marijuana – no answer to date; is it cigarette-like or a prescription; prescriptions laws are federal; currently in Florida…medical marijuana is NOT handled as a prescription; its use is illegal, unless the patient seeks a state decision (waiver) against federal law
Original Summary Below -- Published January 27, 2017
ORDINANCE NO. 8995-17 – Constitutional Amendment 2 / Medical Marijuana
During my City Council comments at the January 3, 2017 Gulfport City Council meeting, I shared that Amendment 2 (“Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Medical Conditions”), approved by Florida voters on November 8, 2016, took effect on January 3. The Amendment enables the expansion of dispensaries and distributors, as well as “Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers.” These centers are able to “cultivate, possess, process (e.g., foods, tinctures, aerosols, oils, or ointments), transfer, transport, sell, distribute, dispense, and administer medical marijuana.” They may also dispense products containing marijuana, related supplies and educational materials. The issue that has arisen for municipalities is that there is little information and direction on how to handle these new facilities, specifically permitting and zoning.
The Florida Department of Health (DOH) and the State Legislature were given six months from November 2016 to develop regulations pertaining to the medical marijuana treatment centers -- state registration requirements, storage, security, record keeping and maximum amount of medical marijuana that can be kept on hand. The Legislature met in December 2016 to begin this process, with additional meetings with the DOH during the first quarter of 2017. It is estimated that regulations may be completed and available to municipalities by May or June 2017.
It is important to note that non-medical use marijuana continues to be a Schedule I drug, thus illegal under federal law. Prior to Amendment 2, Florida has had and continues to have the “Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014,” which makes available low level THC marijuana (e.g., Charlotte’s Web) for patients with cancer or chronic seizures.
NOTE: We will be discussing this at the February 7, 2017 Gulfport City Council meeting.
Actions Being Taken by Florida Cities and Counties
Since Florida now goes from a handful of marijuana providers to many new distributors, dispensaries and treatment centers statewide, municipalities find that they need time to get and understand the anticipated state regulations once they issue (May/June 2017). Municipalities will have to consider, or at least assess their state of readiness, what zoning and permitting ordinances are required for facilities that cultivate, dispense and distribute medical marijuana. It is likely that most will amend their Code of Ordinances on land use. Right now, there is a robust list of Cities and Counties adopting "temporary moratiums" on approving dispensaries, treatment centers and distributors within city or county limits. Below is information on city/county actions throughout Florida.
The City of Clearwater passed an ordinance “imposing a temporary moratorium on the operation of any additional dispensing organizations that dispense low-THC cannabis or medical cannabis or on the operation of medical marijuana treatment centers…for a period of six months.” The moratorium, which terminates June 3, 2017, is necessary to allow the City to study and develop regulations specific to “cultivating, processing, distributing or selling cannabis or related activities.” They also want to address “potential adverse impacts on health, safety, and welfare of residents.” Some of the safety issues they are concerned about includes potential robberies, impact on nearby businesses, nuisance problems and increased DUI incidents.
Example of cities and counties with medical marijuana (distributor, dispensary and treatment center) moratoriums include: St Pete Beach, Tallahassee, Miami Beach, Bonita Springs, Bradenton Beach, Gulf Breeze, Orange County, Wilton Manors, Winter Garden, Jacksonville Beach, Sarasota, Orange Park, Palm Coast County, Marathon, Manatee County, Flagler County, Apopka, Bay County, Zephyrhhills, Largo, Deerfield Beach, Pompano Beach, Delray Beach, Boca Raton, Port St Joe, Seminole, Coconut Creek, Long Boat Key and others.
The Pinellas County Board of Commissioners discussed at their January 10, 2017 regular meeting a proposed “moratorium on the establishment of medical marijuana dispensing facilities and treatment centers for a period 180 days.” The moratorium gives the County time to develop zoning requirements specific to entities (currently not in the County Codes), as well as develop criteria on numbers and locations. On January 24, 2017, County Ordinance No. 17-05 was discussed and adopted.
Gulfport and Dispensaries, Distributors and Treatment Facilities
First, it is clear that in the state of Florida, due to Amendment 2, we will now a medical marijuana program that will greatly assist and improve the health care management of patients suffering from very debilitating conditions. Currently, there are only a handful of dispensaries that are providing medical marijuana via the Charlotte’s Web framework. It is important for the State Rules to issue promptly to enable expanded access to care.
At this time, we may also want to consider a "temporary moratorium" for medical marijuana dispensaries, distributors and treatment facilities within the City of Gulfport city limits. This would only be for a short period of time, enough for us to get the DOH/State Legislature regulations and know exactly what we can and can't do. During this time, City Staff will also be able to study and design any applicable ordinance (zoning/permitting) changes that may be needed. No doubt that Gulfport will do the right thing keeping the best interest of resident’s paramount, as well as meeting the needs of patients needing access to medical marijuana.
Florida Department of Health -- OCU Public Comment Form
“Thank you for participating in the Florida Department of Health Office of Compassionate Use rulemaking process. The Office of Compassionate Use, enacted by the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014, oversees Florida’s medical marijuana infrastructure. This infrastructure includes approved dispensing organizations, qualified ordering physicians, and the online Compassionate Use Registry. As we move forward with implementation of Amendment 2, we are interested to hear from our constituents. To provide public comment, please fill in the fields below.” http://www.floridahealth.gov/programs-and-services/office-of-compassionate-use/comment-form/index.html
The Department has initiated rulemaking to implement Amendment 2…The Department will be holding five regional workshops in February. These workshops are open to the public and attendees are encouraged to provide comments.
Monday, February 6, 2017, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. Duval County Health Department 900 University Blvd. North, Jacksonville, FL
Tuesday, February 7, 2017, 10 a.m. – noon Broward County Health Department 780 SW 24th Street, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Wednesday, February 8, 2017, 9 a.m. – 11 a.m. Florida Department of Health, Tampa Branch Laboratory 3602 Spectrum Blvd., Tampa, FL
Wednesday, February 8, 2017, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. Orange County Health Department 6102 Lake Ellenor Drive, Orlando, FL
Thursday, February 9, 2017, 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. Betty Easley Conference Center 4075 Esplanade Way, Room 148, Tallahassee, FL
Florida Amendment 2 and Other Resources
On the November 2016 voter ballot.
Name if the Constitutional Amendment: Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Medical Conditions
Passed with an overwhelming voter support of 71.32%.
Medical marijuana can now be used with patients diagnosed with cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn's disease, Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis.