After a new state law put limits on how local governments can regulate medical cannabis dispensaries, Coral Gables has taken a step toward banning the businesses in the city.
The City Commission on Tuesday gave initial approval to a citywide ban on shops that sell medical marijuana. It continues the city’s stance that, although Florida voters last fall approved the use of medical marijuana, Gables will not allow dispensaries until they are also allowed under federal law. The council approved a zoning change in 2014 that said dispensaries are not allowed unless the city attorney offers an opinion indicating that federal law has changed.
The new state regulations essentially require local governments to regulate medical cannabis dispensaries the same way they regulate pharmacies like Walgreens or smaller businesses, which means cities can’t limit their numbers and can’t restrict where they go any more than they restrict where pharmacies go. Municipalities also have the option to ban the centers and Coral Gables is set to be the first major city in Miami-Dade County to take that action.
Miami Beach was forced to adjust its plans to regulate the businesses because of the new legislation, while other larger cities like Miami, North Miami and Miami Gardens have either taken no action or have approved moratoriums while they study how to regulate the dispensaries. Like Coral Gables, the city of Miami’s position is that the dispensaries are illegal because they’re not allowed on the federal level.
Tuesday’s ordinance was sponsored by Commissioner Vince Lago, who said he isn’t opposed to the use of medical marijuana and is aware of its benefits but doesn’t want “dispensaries popping up all over the city.”
“Any way you label it, I want to make sure we fall in line with regulations,” Lago said.
City Attorney Craig Leen has stated that the city isn’t planning to prohibit the use of medical marijuana, just the dispensaries.
“My opinion is that federal law takes precedence. This is about the dispensaries being illegal under federal law,” Leen said.
During the regular legislative session, Florida lawmakers were unable to pass a bill implementing Amendment 2, a constitutional change legalizing medical cannabis that voters approved by referendum last November. Legislators finally approved the bill in a June special session. Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill into law late last month.
The city’s law will require a second vote before it becomes official.