By Sallie James
If you use medical marijuana, you’ll have to shop outside this city to buy it.
City Council members at their meeting Oct. 24 approved an ordinance that prohibits marijuana-dispensing facilities in every zoning district in the city after voicing frustration that the existing state law governing the issue is poorly written.
A yearlong moratorium on the dispensaries expires Nov. 8.
According to state statute, cities can either allow marijuana-dispensing facilities in every zoning district that allows pharmacies or ban them altogether. There’s no in between.
Council members opted for the ban, saying they will revisit the issue in a year or so and share their concerns with the state Legislature as soon as possible.
“The state really left us with a poor choice,” said council member Scott Singer. “Acting now when the law is so unsettled may prove problematic. It doesn’t allow us to use a scalpel instead of a chain saw.”
Under the law, cities can ban dispensing facilities within their boundaries, but if they don’t, dispensing facilities can set up shop anywhere zoned to accommodate a regular pharmacy. The law does not set limits on the number of dispensaries that can open.
The only limitation is a separation requirement that prevents dispensaries from operating within 500 feet of any public or private elementary, middle or secondary school.
“We can’t limit the locations of dispensing facilities without limiting locations of pharmacies,” explained Brandon Schaad, Boca Raton development services director.
Palm Beach County, Deerfield Beach, Lake Worth and Boynton Beach have voted to allow dispensaries within their boundaries. Delray Beach has banned them.
Another concern is the large amount of cash the dispensaries may have on hand. Marijuana sales are still illegal on the federal level, meaning all dispensary sales must be cash-based, making dispensaries appealing targets for crime.
“A marijuana dispensary is not a pharmacy. Large amounts of cash will be there,” Glenn Gromann, a former member of the Boca Planning and Zoning Board, told the council. “You’re talking about potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars cash for people to steal. You have to be sure they’re going to attempt to rob these places and break in.”
Several council members initially voiced support for the issue, noting that a majority of voters in the state, county and Boca Raton all voted in favor of medical marijuana and the sale of it through medical marijuana dispensaries. But concern about the broadness of the law spurred a change of heart.
The ban doesn’t prevent city residents from receiving or using medical marijuana within the city limits.
Council member Robert Weinroth initially said he wanted to allow dispensaries, but embraced a wait-and-see attitude because of concerns over where they could locate.
“What’s the rush?” asked Deputy Mayor Jeremy Rodgers. “If we approve it we can’t undo it. We’re not talking about the use here. We’re talking about retail sales in the city. I’d say let’s look at this again in the future once the state figures this out.” Ú