SHCC to seek public input on medical marijuana dispensaries

The Safety Harbor City Commission will host a workshop in August to gather public feedback as to whether they should allow medical marijuana dispensaries in town. (Image credit: WikiCommons)

Safety Harbor City Commissioners agreed on Monday night to host a workshop in August to gather public input on whether they should allow medical marijuana dispensaries in town.

The decision came after City Attorney Alan Zimmet informed the commission that Florida Governor Rick Scott could soon sign a piece of legislation into law allowing the sale of full-strength medical marijuana in the next two weeks.

The move could pave the way for a flood of dispensary applications, according to Zimmet, although a citywide moratorium that was recently extended for an additional 180 days gives Safety Harbor officials extra time to put an ordinance regulating the establishments in place.

“This, to me, is a big decision, and I’d like to get some feedback from the public,” Commissioner Cliff Merz said when the topic was raised during the Commission Reports.

According to Zimmet, dispensaries are subject to the same zoning rules and regulations as pharmacies.

“Wherever a pharmacy can go, a dispensary can go,” he said, adding the dispensaries must have affiliations with growers in order to sell medical cannabis.

Safety Harbor code currently treats pharmacies the same as regular retail establishments, but city officials want to change that.

When Commissioner Scott Long asked if pharmacies could double as dispensaries, Zimmet said that was not an option.

Currently, pharmacies are treated as retail establishments according to the city code, but the commission would like to amend that as they establish an ordinance regarding dispensaries.

According to the guidelines of the medical marijuana bill, there are several regulations established for dispensaries, including hours of operation, location, security and signage.

“There are a series of regulations that the state has put on these facilities—signage, security, lighting, things of that nature,” Zimmet said. “Their signage that would be permitted for them is more restrictive than our sign code would be. So we would have to tweak our sign code.”

The commission toyed with the idea of banning dispensaries entirely, a move which Zimmet said would be legal, but ultimately decided to gather input and information before making a decision.

“My thought would be, we have a moratorium in place—I’m not opposed to the dispensaries, per se—but why not let the moratorium ride out and observe what other cities are doing, see what issues come up and take it up after that,” Mayor Joe Ayoub said.

“There’s very passionate people about this subject on both sides,” Commissioner Andy Zodrow said, adding he’d like to hear from the public.

Commissioner Carlos Diaz concurred, stating, “There’s pros and cons.”

Safety Harbor Mayor Joe Ayoub.

The workshop is tentatively scheduled for Monday, August 21 at 6:00 p.m.

Following the meeting, Mayor Ayoub spoke to Safety Harbor Connect about the subject.

“I think we have to proceed cautiously and see how it plays out,” Ayoub said, adding he’d “like to see if issues arise in other communities.”

When asked if he wanted to receive public feedback on the matter, the mayor was definitive.

“Of course,” he said. “We represent the citizens of Safety Harbor, and we would like to hear what they have to say on this issue.”

Harborites, what are your thoughts about allowing medical marijuana dispensaries in town? Let us know in the comments below, or visit our Safety Harbor Connect Facebook page.

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