Miami-Dade County

Miami attorney compares legalizing medical marijuana to legalizing pedophilia

In the wake of a constitutional amendment creating a broader medical marijuana market in Florida, cities around the state are preparing for the expansion of cannabis retail outlets.

Miami not so much.

Even though there’s already a so-called pot shop just outside its borders, South Florida’s largest city doesn’t appear to be in much of a rush to craft legislation regulating marijuana dispensaries. In fact, the mere thought of doing so seems taboo in City Hall.

Adam Gersten learned as much late Wednesday night when, during a meeting of Miami’s Planning Zoning and Appeals Board, he tried to prompt a discussion about zoning regulations for medical marijuana retail outlets.

“I’m happy to make it very easy. It’s not allowed,” Deputy City Attorney Barnaby Min responded.

When pressed further by Gersten, an attorney and board member who’d asked city staffers to research zoning rules in states with medical marijuana programs, Min offered what he prefaced as a “very poor example” to illustrate the legal issue with allowing pot shops.

“If the city of Miami for some infinite, God-forbidden reason thought having sex with a child was a great way to recover from some issue and so we wrote that into our city code, just because the city says that’s legal doesn’t mean it’s legal,” he said.

Gersten, the owner of Gramps bar in Wynwood, was confused about the city’s lack of interest in preparing for what he sees as the inevitable.

“I just find it somewhat crazy that we can’t have a discussion about something that isn’t an ‘if’ but a ‘when,’ ” he said.

The position that medical marijuana dispensaries are prohibited due to the conflict in federal law is not unique. Coral Gables, for instance, holds the same opinion. Meanwhile, the state has yet to set the parameters for its constitutionally mandated medical marijuana market after legislation fell apart in Tallahassee this month.

But the Coral Gables Commission has already passed zoning regulations for medical marijuana shops in order to prepare for the scenario when their city attorney opines that there is no longer a conflict in the law. Other municipalities have called moratoriums in order to study regulations. And if the Legislature doesn’t hold a special session to pass a medical marijuana bill, Amendment 2 still requires that the Department of Health have rules in place for patients and distributors by July.

Miami Commissioner Ken Russell said Thursday that his staff has already had internal discussions about crafting regulations to regulate dispensaries, and that he’s “happy to sponsor legislation” after compiling more information.