As the Florida Legislature begins debating how to make medical marijuana available to patients, Miami Beach commissioners voted Wednesday to extend a moratorium on dispensaries to give city planners time to develop local zoning laws to govern where such businesses can open.
In a 4-3 vote on first reading, the commission extended the temporary ban until May 17. Mayor Philip Levine and Commissioners Michael Grieco and Kristen Rosen Gonzalez voted against. Commissioners Ricky Arriola, Joy Malakoff, John Elizabeth Alemán and Micky Steinberg voted in favor.
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“It’s a question of where they’re going to be and who’s it going to impact,” Malakoff said.
Grieco disagreed with an opinion by Eve Boutsis, chief deputy city attorney, that without a ban, a dispensary could apply for a business license to open in the Beach and make a legal challenge if denied because medical marijuana is now allowed by the Florida Constitution.
“I think, if anything, right now the moratorium is duplicative,” he said.
Ben Pollara, executive chairman of advocacy group Florida for Care, said it makes sense for a municipality to allow state authorities to develop regulations to govern medical marijuana.
“[Cities] are going to have to operate under the laws of Tallahassee, and Tallahassee hasn’t made them yet,” Pollara said. “It’s really the only logical thing to do, unless they’re just itching to get a dispensary to open up in the neighborhood.”
State lawmakers and health officials are beginning to grapple with implementing the amendment, but advocates worry that initial proposals would limit the availability of medical cannabis.