The Florida Constitution now gives patients with debilitating conditions the ability to use marijuana as treatment. However, the city of Bonita Springs wants time to sort out specifics before the ruling goes into effect Jan. 3.

“This just gives us 12 months to formulate our ideas and how to proceed,” City Attorney Audrey Vance said. “When you’re dealing with Constitutional issues and protected rights, you need to make sure you get it right.”

A moratorium delaying the formation of medical marijuana dispensaries is under consideration and could pass into effect before the new year. Vance said that nailing down some of the specifics could take time.

Estero’s village council is on track to do the same. It will take a final vote on its own moratorium on Dec. 7. The council handily passed the draft ordinance at the first public hearing on Wednesday.

A moratorium gives the state Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott enough time to lay the ground rules for Amendment 2, which Estero can then use to consider its options, said Village Attorney Burt Saunders.

The ordinance also would require Village Manager Steven Sarkozy to study land rules for cannabis dispensaries and the impact those rules have had in other places.

The state law splits a dispensary’s operations into four separate areas – growing the plant, processing any materials into other uses such as oils or edibles, transportation and the retail shop itself. Each of these areas needs to be defined through uses, which explicitly state where they can be located.

However, the state Legislature has not given the city much direction at this time, particularly in the processing area, Vance said.

“Processing could mean ingestibles,” she said. “Is it like manufacturing at an industrial site? Is it a cottage food thing you allow in people’s homes? Until the Department of Health has the problem figured out, I’m not sure if we’re going to allow people to be making their marijuana brownies for sale in a residential kitchen. That’s a question I don’t have an answer to.”

Determining uses is important to determine what zones and areas an operation can set up. For example, current uses don’t allow a cattle farm to be built next to Bonita Springs City Hall.

The moratorium delay would give city officials time to decide where exactly everything should fall into place. The process might not take the entire 12 months, Councilor Mike Gibson said.

“This would end early if we get it right,” he said.

Estero resident Lorraine Fierro is already interested in opening a dispensary in the area.

“It’s a whole different experience than what some people make it out to be,” she said. “I was so inspired by the professional and well-educated people I met and how well it worked for me personally.”

Fierro will be following Bonita Springs’ moratorium and analyzing future decisions in hopes of eventually starting a store front in the city.

“The only way to grow is if people stay on track and within the laws and do it the right way,” she said. “There’s a lot of people that need help.”

The council did approve an ordinance restricting where marijuana can be smoked in public and open areas.

The new ordinance is based on the Lee County open container laws and is a necessary step before the new law goes into effect, Vance said.

“This has nothing to do with public impairment or substance abuse,” she said. “This mostly has to do with the scent of marijuana as well as protection of other people for (secondhand smoke).”

More than two-thirds of Lee County residents voted in favor of medical marijuana.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker 420 MAGAZINE ®
Full Article: Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Could Be Halted By Bonita Springs Moratorium
Author: Thaddeus Mast
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