By Jane Smith
Medical marijuana dispensaries are banned from opening in the city limits, Delray Beach city commissioners decided at the end of September.
Acknowledging Florida voters who overwhelmingly approved the state ballot question on medical marijuana last November, Commissioner Mitch Katz persuaded his fellow commissioners to revisit the decision in one year. They unanimously agreed.
A majority of Delray Beach voters also voted in favor of medical marijuana sales.
State legislators tied the city’s hands when they said local governments could regulate the dispensaries with only the same rules placed on pharmacies, City Attorney Max Lohman said. That means no limits on the number or where they can operate.
Marijuana sales are still illegal on the federal level, making all dispensary sales cash-based, he said. “They can’t accept credit or debit cards,” he said. Lohman also pointed out issues with the unregulated dosage strength of medical marijuana.
The city’s two public safety chiefs spoke out against the dispensaries when asked their opinion by the mayor.
“They harden the buildings to avoid robberies, which makes it harder for us to enter,” Police Chief Jeff Goldman said. “It adds another issue to our being able to protect the public.”
Acting Fire Chief Keith Tomey said the dispensaries would likely lead to an increase in calls for fire-rescue staff.
“We are the poster child for irresponsible prescribing of opioids,” Mayor Cary Glickstein said. “Will there be irresponsible prescribing of medical marijuana?”
Delray Beach staff will watch to see how nearby cities of Boynton Beach and Lake Worth handle the dispensaries, along with the county.
Boynton Beach tried to regulate the location of the dispensaries before the state Legislature determined its rules in June. Then, in August, the City Commission on a 3-2 vote decided not to ban the dispensaries.
Lake Worth did not try to regulate the dispensaries, and two have plans to open there along Dixie Highway.
Boca Raton in late September tentatively passed an ordinance that permanently bans medical marijuana dispensaries from operating in the city.
The tentative ban passed just weeks before a yearlong moratorium on medical marijuana treatment centers and dispensing organizations expires in November. The moratorium was instituted in November 2016 for the second time in two years so City Council members could review related land development regulations.
The county waited for the state to issue its rules and is working on an ordinance that would allow the dispensaries to operate in the areas outside city limits.
Delray Beach is taking a watch-and-wait approach.
“The commission can always adopt it at a later point when it sees the problems with it,” Glickstein said. Ú
Sallie James contributed to this story.