Broward County

Broward law would regulate medical marijuana dispensaries

The final product in either botanical oil concentrate or capsule form, all produced from the Cannabis plant.
The final product in either botanical oil concentrate or capsule form, all produced from the Cannabis plant.

Medical marijuana shops would be free to open for business in unincorporated areas of Broward County under strict zoning regulations moving through the legislative pipeline.

County commissioners on Tuesday set a March 14 public hearing on a law that sets the ground rules for medical cannabis dispensaries. The law, which does not apply to cities, affects only a few sections of the county, including parts of Sunrise Boulevard and Northwest 27th Avenue. Commissioners voted unanimously to schedule the public hearing, and did so without discussion.

Under the ordinance put forth by the county attorney’s office, county commissioners would be required to vote on each business application. Dispensaries selling pills, tinctures, vaporizer pens and other processed products would be restricted to commercial zones and locations at least 1,200 feet away from churches, schools, day-care centers and other dispensaries.

The ordinance also requires dispensaries to exist in standalone buildings lined by 6-foot fences, armed with 24-hour security systems and defended by round-the-clock security guards. It’s unclear how many dispensaries would be allowed under the spatial requirements, or exactly where they could be located. Grow operations and production centers, the regulation of which is mostly pre-empted by the state, would be limited to industrial areas.

Broward County’s consideration of medical marijuana zoning laws comes at an uncertain time in the state.

The proposed ordinance in many ways mirrors language in a 2014 statute passed in order to govern a limited “compassionate use” system for low-THC products. But lawmakers in Tallahassee are expected to pass new, expansive laws this session in order to implement Amendment 2, which could make much or all of the pre-existing legislation moot.

That’s part of the reason that Monroe County and Palm Beach counties are considering a moratorium, as are a number of other South Florida municipalities, which control zoning laws in their own jurisdictions.