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Palmetto just says “No” to medical marijuana dispensaries

With the Legislature somewhat rolling out the green carpet for medical marijuana dispensing, Palmetto renews discussions on the future of the industry in the city.
With the Legislature somewhat rolling out the green carpet for medical marijuana dispensing, Palmetto renews discussions on the future of the industry in the city.

With Manatee County expecting to finalize a land use amendment to categorize medical marijuana dispensaries as pharmacies in an effort to move forward, Palmetto will let the county have them and will ban the dispensaries from the city.

On August 22, Manatee County voted 6-0, with Commissioner Charles Smith abstaining due to a conflict of interest, to allow dispensaries to be built in the county with a 500-foot buffer between property lines related to schools. The county is expected to finalize the land development code amendment at a second public hearing on Sept. 7. The county’s moratorium, enacted last year, expires Sept. 16.

A consensus from Palmetto commissioners not to allow dispensaries in the city on Monday reverses a 2014 ordinance that would have allowed them, but restricted dispensaries to the city’s heavy commercial district. Palmetto was the first to take action on the subject even before the successful 2016 ballot measure where 71 percent of Floridians voted in favor of medical marijuana, including 65 percent of Palmetto residents.

The city took preemptive action during the 2014 campaign to legalize medical marijuana, which barely failed in the ensuing election. Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant told her commission that they could follow the county’s lead or ban the dispensaries altogether.

“I think it would be more efficient to allow the county to be the one to handle dispensaries,” said Vice Mayor Brian Williams. “I don’t know if it will benefit the city to have them, and it will cause more headaches for the police department. With there not being a limit on the number of dispensaries that could open, I’d rather give them all to the county. It’s not like they would be 100 miles away, and I’m not sure we want them in our community.”

City attorney Mark Barnebey will bring a new ordinance back to the commission next month that will ban the dispensaries. Barnebey said Palmetto will join with Holmes Beach and Anna Maria in enacting the bans thus far.

Bradenton voted in May to extend its moratorium for another six months due to delays in the Florida Legislature to regulate the process. The city has until October to decide how to approach its land use regulations pertaining to dispensaries. The lone exception is the Trulieve dispensary in the 1100 block of 14th Street West, which had filed for permits prior to the city’s moratorium vote. Trulieve has completed interior renovations to the property and are expected to open some time in October.

“There are too many unknowns,” said Commissioner Tambra Varnadore. “I don’t have a problem with the use of it, but there are so many rumors out there that it would be potentially abused, so I would rather wait. I feel if our citizens need one, then we can deal with it down the road.”

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