A 180-day moratorium on medical marijuana dispensing facilities could be enacted in unincorporated Manatee County.
The county commission unanimously approved setting public hearings Tuesday. With Amendment 2 on the Nov. 8 ballot, Manatee County could be one of several local jurisdictions in the state to impose such a moratorium.
A moratorium for Manatee County is a good move, Commission Chairwoman Vanessa Baugh said.
“If it does pass, we have a responsibility to the citizens of Manatee County to come up with a plan that would be the best plan that we can figure and do,” she said.
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Before it goes into effect, two public hearings are required on a proposed ordinance that would impose “a moratorium on the acceptance and processing of new applications for the establishment of medical marijuana processing and dispensing facilities in Manatee County for a period of 180 days,” agenda materials state.
“Moratorium is a tool to suspend permitting activity temporarily while we adopt rules,” Assistant County Attorney Bill Clague said. “By doing this, you will be able to do that. It is not a prohibition on medical marijuana.”
Should Amendment 2 pass, it wouldn’t take effect until Jan. 3, and Manatee County’s ordinance establishing the moratorium could be in place by Dec. 13, according to the County Attorney’s Office.
“We felt 180 days was a safe number and we can always come back and extend it,” Clague said.
The cities in Manatee County would have to approve their own ordinances to enact a moratorium within those jurisdictions.
Ellen Snelling, who lives in Temple Terrace but attended Tuesday’s meeting, said she watched the effect smoking marijuana had on her daughter.
“It was very destructive to my family,” she said. “Marijuana is not harmless, especially to kids. It affects the developing brain. Any drug can affect it but marijuana is found to be very devastating.”
Medical marijuana is already present in Florida, Snelling said.
“We found out the hard way in Hillsborough (County),” she said. “We had no zoning. You have a gap in zoning and they are here. You really have to move forward as quickly as possible with this. I think you are really doing the right thing.”
Drug Free Manatee supports the moratorium, said Sharon Kramer, the organization’s director.
“The moratorium will allow the county to develop optimal zoning regulations that would help protect the health, safety and welfare of our citizens,” she said.