The City of Orlando took the first step Tuesday in limiting the number of medical marijuana dispensaries that will serve patients with debilitating illnesses.

The Municipal Planning Board approved staff recommendations to cap the number of dispensaries at seven. The restrictions include a 1000-foot buffer from schools, child daycares, parks and houses of worship, a 200-foot separation from residential districts and a one-mile distance between dispensaries.

The facilities can dispense tincture drops, oils and vaporizing lotions, but not raw cannabis. Patients that qualify for medical marijuana must be a Florida resident with a debilitating illness and must be under the care of the prescribing physician for at least 90 days.

Florida voters approved dispensing medical marijuana by a 71 percent margin last year. The regulations are in flux as six bills are currently proposed in the state senate and house.

Orlando Chief Planner Jason Burton suggested the board limit the number of dispensaries because “we don’t want to be the regional hub for medical cannabis.”

Board Chair Karen Anderson, who voted against the proposal, did not want to cap the number of dispensaries and was in favor of extending the hours from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday to an hour later.

“We’re one of the first to look at these laws and how it will affect us,” Anderson said. “This is still in its infancy. I think that laws will change and we will have to adapt.”

Following the passage of a Florida law allowing a Charlotte’s Web strain of cannabis for qualifying patents, Orlando passed a moratorium on medical marijuana operations in 2016. Orange County, Winter Garden and Apopka also passed similar moratoriums.

Orlando gave zoning approval to three organizations allowing them to dispense the Charlotte’s Web strain before passing the moratorium. The three locations now sit outside the recommended area but will be “grandfathered in,” if they submit building permits prior to the enactment of the new regulations and will be allowed to dispense both the Charlotte’s Web strain and medical cannabis, according to Cassandra Lafser, city spokesperson.

Knox Medical, which is a half mile south of Florida Hospital’s main campus on Orange Avenue is slated to open in a few weeks. Orange Medical at 4544 N. Orange Blossom Trail is applying for permits. A third request at 2445 Edgewater Dr. has yet to apply for a building permit.

Attorneys representing Knox Medical and Costa Nursery Farms in Miami said they were in favor of staff recommendations. There were no other public comments.

Orlando commissioners will consider the medical cannabis locations and regulations on first reading June 5th and hold a second reading June 19th, coat tailing the end of city’s moratorium July 1.

 

About The Author

The youngest of seven children, Terry O. Roen followed two older brothers into journalism. Her career started as a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel, where she wrote stories on city and county government, schools, courts and religion. She has also reported for the Associated Press, where she covered the Casey Anthony and Trayvon Martin trials along with the Pulse massacre. Married to her husband, Hal, they have two children and live in Winter Park. A lifelong tourist in her own state, she writes about Central Florida’s growing tourism industry for Florida Politics and Orlando Rising.

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