Pasco OKs medical marijuana dispensaries

The Pasco County Commission has approved medical marijuana dispensaries, on a limited scale, to open for business in the county.

Commissioners approved an ordinance on Feb. 21 that permits two medical marijuana dispensaries.

The permits will be issued only for a low-level form of the product, known as Charlotte’s web.

The permits also will be issued to two separate applicants, who will be able to open locations within the county’s industrial districts.

And, the ordinance stipulates that if the number of qualified patients exceeds 1,200, a third dispensary can be permitted.

Qualified patients must be state residents who are added to the “compassionate use registry” by a physician licensed to receive the low-level marijuana from a dispensary.

Florida voters, in 2014, approved a referendum to allow Charlotte’s web as a medical marijuana option. It can be provided to patients who suffer from seizures. In some cases, late-stage cancer patients also can qualify.

State health officials didn’t approve guidelines for the program until last year. The first recipient was a resident of Hudson.

Now, Pasco and other counties are in waiting mode, again.

Last year, voters approved a new referendum that covers a broader range of medical conditions and allows for stronger potencies.

Dispensary permits for this expanded program are on hold until Florida legislators and state health officials craft new regulations and guidelines.

Pasco’s ordinance on Charlotte’s web had the support of Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco However, Chase Daniels, assistant executive director of the sheriff’s office, said, “We continue to (watch) what the legislature is going to do with Amendment 2.”

To prepare for medical marijuana within the county, Pasco county commissioners, in December, approved the framework for where and how dispensaries can operate.

Besides being restricted to industrial districts, the county also request a one-mile separation between the medicinal shops.  Dispensaries also must be at least 1,000 feet from such facilities as schools, day care centers and drug treatment centers. Buffering and adequate setbacks are required between a dispensary and any residential property.

Applicants must show they are licensed by the state to operate a dispensary and must meet the county’s zoning conditions for permitting.

Published March 1, 2017

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