Home / Government / City Commission agrees to allow medical marijuana facilities in Safety Harbor

City Commission agrees to allow medical marijuana facilities in Safety Harbor

The Safety Harbor City Commission recently agreed to allow medical marijuana pharmacies, dispensaries, processing and growing facilities in certain section of town. The former home of Sun Groves citrus farm on SR 580 was cited as a possible location for a grow facility, as it is zoned for outdoor agricultural use.

The Safety Harbor City Commission recently agreed to allow medical marijuana pharmacies, dispensaries, processing and growing facilities in certain section of town.

The decision came during a special workshop held at City Hall last week to gain public feedback on what has become a hot-button subject following the passaging of Amendment 2 in November.

In the wake of that landmark vote, the SHCC elected to enact a 180-day moratorium that went into effect on January 1; in May, the five commissioners unanimously voted to extend the ban an additional six months while staff conducted more fact-finding.

Officials began the one-hour work session on August 21 by clarifying some of the legalities associated with legislating medical marijuana establishments in the state.

“Most of the field of regulation for these facilities—security, cameras, noise, in some instances even signage—they have been preempted to the state,” City Attorney Nicole Nate explained, noting local lawmakers have three areas they could choose to regulate: site locations for dispensaries, site locations for growing and cultivating operations, or the outright banning of any medical marijuana facilities.

The Safety Harbor City Commission recently agreed to allow the establishment of medical marijuana treatment facilities in town. (Google Images)

Community Development Director Marcie Stenmark said that while some cities, including Sarasota, have opted for a ban, most municipalities that allow the facilities treat them the same as pharmacies and regulate them according to their existing city codes.

“The Senate Bill (8A) states that we cannot regulate medical marijuana dispensaries any more than a pharmacy,” she said. “So, they should be allowed anywhere a code allows pharmacies.”

“Well, our code doesn’t use the word ‘Pharmacy’. We use ‘Retail Sales’. So, anywhere retail sales are permitted uses…pharmacies are permitted in these areas because they’re considered retail sales.”

Stenmark added that growing and processing facilities could be permitted in areas zoned for Light Industrial use, while outdoor grow facilities would be permissible anywhere Agriculture is allowed a conditional use, including the recently vacated Sun Groves citrus center site on State Road 580.

“If you wanted to address the outdoor growing of medical marijuana, we have one district where Agricultural uses are allowed today as a conditional use only, and this is the former Sun Groves site,” Stenmark said.

At that point Andrew Wagner, an official with Midwest Compassion Center, an Illinois based medical cannabis dispensary, said his company has a desire to expand into Florida, with an eye on Safety Harbor and the Sun Groves site.

Andrew Wagner, an official with Midwest Compassion Center, an Illinois based medical cannabis dispensary, told the City Commission on August 21 that his company has a desire to expand into Florida, with an eye on Safety Harbor.

“Right now, we are currently only a dispensary,” Wagner said. “Florida would be our first step into growing and processing.”

In speaking about his company’s interest in the Sun Groves site, Wagner said “I think it’s a very good option for us.”

The Sun Groves citrus center on SR 580.

Wagner explained some of the specifics of the medical cannabis industry, including the fact that the majority of patients are people 55 and up with serious and debilitating health issues.

He noted Florida did not approve smoking medicinal cannabis, so patients must use edibles, vaporizers, topicals and other materials to deliver the prescribed doses.

“There’s no medical benefits one way or the other,” he said. “The only difference is the duration the product lasts.”

Wager said MWC, which is a subsidiary of American Imaging, a diagnostic company based in Boca Raton with 125 years of medical experience, is currently fighting for one of the two citrus processing licenses that will be granted for the region, and if successful, they would most likely want to open dispensaries nearby.

“Ideally, if we were to locate in your fine city, we’d like to have a dispensary close by,” he said, adding for every license a company secures, it is allowed to open 25 dispensaries in the region.

“But ultimately, our number one goal is to get the cultivation at the citrus processing facility.”

Later, Stenmark clarified an indoor grow operation would not be permitted at Sun Groves, as it is currently zoned for outdoor agricultural use only.

But the information and insight Wagner provided into the medical cannabis industry, combined with the mostly supportive comments from the audience, seemed to hold sway with the commission.

Safety Harbor City Commissioner Scott Long.

“I am one of the 72 percent that voted for this,” Commissioner Scott Long said, noting his mother has MS and he “wanted to do anything I could do to help her.”

“We’re in a really difficult position up here no matter which way we go.”

Commissioner Andy Zodrow concurred with Long, stating he also voted for the bill and he supported regulating the businesses, while Commissioner Cliff Merz added, “we can only contain it.”

With unanimous support in favor of establishing guidelines, Mayor Joe Ayoub directed staff to draft an ordinance regulating medical marijuana facilities in Safety Harbor.

After the meeting, City Manager Spoor explained the next steps in the process.

“The City Commission requested staff to draft an ordinance that allows medical marijuana dispensaries and pharmacies as permitted uses in zoning districts where retail sales are a permitted use, and medical marijuana processing and growing facilities in the M-1 (Light Industrial) district,” Spoor told Safety Harbor Connect.

Safety Harbor Mayor Joe Ayoub.

“Preparation and adoption of an ordinance can take several months, and the hearings have not been scheduled.”

Mayor Ayoub also weighed in on the Commission’s decision.

“The state, and over 72% of Safety Harbor voters, passed Amendment 2 last November allowing medical marijuana use by qualifying patients,” Ayoub said via email this week. “State lawmakers drafted and the Governor approved the rules which govern how local municipalities must handle dispensing and processing facilities. The Commission gave staff preliminary direction to draft ordinances which allow dispensing facilities that comply with state law and processing facilities in the light industrial district(s) of town.”

“I look forward to continued dialogue with the residents of Safety Harbor as we move through the public hearing process.”

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  1. I certainly agree with what everyone has said. Our city officials need to take a step back and look at the disturbing CONS to allow this type of business in our residential neighborhoods. I don’t want this in North Bay Hills. It is a desired area and this type of business does not belong in a residential area. All grow sites should be located where there is a minimum of 5 areas +. This should keep them far enough away where the smell, traffic, and densely populated residents are not affected. Most people do not want a farm in there backyard when they chose to live in a neighborhood. This is disturbing that the City officials who were elected by the people of Safety Harbor are even considering this company. This needs to be STOPPED!!!!

  2. This issue was unknown to residents and business owners. Everyone come to the commission meetings 11/6 and 11/20 and make your opinions known before this is slipped in under your noses! Planning and Zoning meeting 10/11. Sun Groves has $500k homes in the back of it…. picnics.will smell good around there. 9th Ave North location is next to Lincoln Highlands, same odor story but add churches and schools. 590 has same residential values—affected by odor—across street and next door to open air workshops. No place anywhere with enough odor buffer space with 3,500 SH residents per square mile. WHEREVER LOCATED there will be minimum 1,000 people affected. Can you commissioners risk that backlash?

  3. The issue is not whether we are in favor of medical marijuana or who voted for it. .The issue is that grow facilities SMELL LIKE SKUNK up to 1/2 mile away. This has been documented in Washington, Oregon, and Colorado and complaints abound even with charcoal “filters”, with no recourse to solve the problem. Our commission heard from two former western residents about this odor. Now add Florida humidity, dampness, and heavy air, and NO WIND all summer for 8 months. The odor will hang over our city when we try to run, bike, fish, enjoy the outdoor events and Little League and entertain visitors. One marijuana plant smells up an entire house. Add about 1,000 plants in a drafty warehouse and it’s curtains for clean air. And chemical runoff? Just 1% of Florida residents have prescriptions, three Safety Harbor residents a /day would visit the dispensary. Safety Harbor has 3,500 residents per square mile, why selfishly squeeze or shove this grow/process facility in our city when there is more open space outside of the tightly packed Florida West Coast cities. Not downtown. Not here, not a part of our new “Quaint” project.

  4. Benn, Your comments are right on! Very little left to add. I believe that someone at the meeting said that there is already a grow operation off U.S. 19 behind Carl Flammer Ford. As stated above, each grow operation is allowed to open 25 dispensaries. If there is already one grow operation at Flammer and they open their allotted 25 shops, that is way more than enough in this area! Saturday, I noticed one shop in the store fronts on U.S. 19 just south of Curlew Road. That is not too far to drive for anyone to fill their script. I also voted for this but knowing full well that Tallahassee would screw it up. I believe that only the major chain drug stores should be able to fill these prescriptions from legitimate doctors. We don’t need privately owned shops which are way more difficult to police. You know the state will not have the staff in place to monitor them.

  5. So just so I understand the article……..the City of Safety Harbor, where I have chosen to live for well over a decade specifically for the low key, family oriented environment ( I think we have one traffic light, maybe two) is allowing an Illinois based company to set their sights on our city to pure and simply make money. Our city government has been empowered to designate the locations of distribution or out right ban distribution site but is entertaining this level of idiocy? I believe in the benefits of medical marijuana but to allow a distribution point to be, seriously, behind a fence of family houses and across the street from a nursing home? I think it s insulting for the community development director to fall back on the city ordinance for retail establishments. If our elected officials want to bring a business like this, and yes this is the driving factor for all this, into the middle of a neighborhood knowing the real problems that will come, the it s time for new elected officials and city staff. I have read the previous comments and YES there will be issues. Why did the legislature require security cameras and other security measures?…..seriously….phamarcies that sell Fentynal, hydromorphi et cetera Arendt required to have these protocols. I really don’t want my children walking to school when a group of armed robbers conduct a take over robbery of this cash business with the highest grade,medical grade, product. Yes, this will happen…my friend was shot and almost killed trying to stop such a string of pharmacy robberies….in fact it turned into a running gun fight though the surrounding city streets in Pinellas County. Here it would be into residential lneighborhoods or a nursing home. City officials and staff……if you really want to bring such poison into our neighborhood then maybe it’s time to do something else because you either don t care or have lost focus on what’s best for Safety Harborians.

  6. Honestly, with how prosperous the medical marijuana business has been in states and cities all over the country, if not the globe, your property value will most likely go up.
    I know that most church’s land value has been going down, but that’s more likely from attendance than anything else.

  7. Will they be using ice cream mixed with marijuana next? Please please, save the children from thinking this is a good product, since they were familiar with the ice cream store.
    Our church, Bayside, is just down the street. Many children and adults don’t need to see a marijuana facility in the neighborhood. It would likely downgrade the real estate value over time for our church property, as well as any housing in the church neighborhood. Please, stop this planning!

    • As a chrons patient this is great news. I can’t believe people are actually so selfish they think I want to suffer because they can’t explain to their kids the truth about marijuana.

    • I would rather explain to my child the truth and benefits of marijuana vs your church. At least marijuana pays its taxes too

  8. It’s nice to know Safety Harbor is helping those in need. My sister is almost blind from untreatable glaucoma. Some people really need this medication. Be generous folks and not so fearful.

  9. Honestly why is everything such a big deal in this city? Every announcement, every development is so scrutinized and met with such hostility it is no wonder businesses don’t want to open.

  10. Medical Marijuana is grown indoors for several reasons: Security, special grow lamps to accelarate the growing period, control/eliminate weeds and reduce water consumption. Every plant and bud is tightly controlled with serial numbers. It would not be practical or cost-effective to plant it outdoors. I observed several public dispensaries in Colorado, and there wasn’t much traffic at all – about the same number of people who go in a Walgreens pharmacy on an hourly basis.

    • Gary, that’s good to know. However, this article specifically quotes the spokesperson of the marijuana dispensing company as being interested in growing marijuana at the former Sun Groves site, and it also states that it can’t be grown indoors at that site. So, either they’re planning to grow it outdoors, they’re unaware of the zoning restriction, or they’re hoping to get the zoning changed.

  11. Sure put a grow house right next to a bus stop and two nice neighborhoods. Why not won’t affect my property value at all!!!!!! NOT!!!!!! I’m all for medical marijuana just don’t put it at my door step!!! Concerned North Bay Hills resident!!!

    • Agreed. I am in favor of medical marijuana, but do not see this facility increasing my property value. Just the opposite. Location should be in a more commercial area. Pawn shops, liquor stores and check cashing businesses pay their taxes too, but lower the property value of the surrounding residential communities. Concerned in Bridgeport Estates.

  12. I am admittedly ignorant about commercial marijuana growing, so it concerns me that the former Sun Groves property might be used to grow marijuana. It’s in a residential area where hundreds of kids live. Are there any laws in place concerning security at grow facilities to prevent people from hopping the fence and helping themselves? Are there any laws in place regarding containment so in the event of a storm we don’t have marijuana leaves and plants all over the neighborhood?

    • I’m sure that not only will there be security from guards and alarms to cameras and fences, but the outdoor growing facility itself may be entirely engaged in a greenhouse of sorts, that way with storms, as bad as they get when they hit Pinellas, none of the material will blow away and get in to nearby residential districts.
      That or they may even just push for the licensing and equipment to grow inside the original building.
      It’s all up in the air and I’m sure nearby residents are a number one concern and priority.

  13. Safety harbor cannot handle the traffic this will generate. It is bad as it is. 580 or mccmullen can handle it. Ok to put it up on these roads.

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