Letters to the Editor

Medical marijuana needs a ‘road map’

Like many of my neighbors, I was among the 6.5 million Floridians who voted to legalize medical marijuana on Nov. 8. People suffering from chronic illness should have access to a substance proven to relieve symptoms.

As an elected official responsible for protecting the public’s health, quality of life and economy, I believe we must welcome medical marijuana in Miami Beach sensibly and safely.

The state must approve regulations for physicians before July 2017, and marijuana growers and dispensary owners will become registered by next October.

These policies will control how dispensaries are licensed and managed, but it is up to each municipality to determine where they should be located, when they can operate and how they market themselves to consumers.

Given that Miami Beach is responsible for balancing the will of voters with the well-being of our community, we must take steps to prevent abuse of the new marijuana law. For this reason, I worked with the Miami Beach Commission to author and pass legislation enacting a four-month moratorium on the approval of medical-marijuana dispensaries within city limits. The measure gives the Land Use Committee time to gather feedback and designate approved locations for dispensaries.

Failure to consider zoning implications would allow dispensaries to open near parks, libraries, schools and tourist areas like Lincoln Road and Ocean Drive.

Miami Beach is a family-friendly destination and our economy is largely built on tourism, but the day-to-day experience of residents comes first.

By creating a common-sense road map for welcoming dispensaries and upholding the will of voters, we will help patients access their medical marijuana safely while ensuring the drug remains off-limits to everyone else.

Ricky Arriola,

commissioner, Miami Beach