Dade City to draw up ordinance allowing cannabis dispensaries

Medical marijuana treatment centers soon could be allowed within some areas of Dade City.

At a Jan. 8 workshop, the Dade City Commission expressed consensus to have city staffers draft an ordinance that would permit cannabis dispensaries — but restrict their location to areas outside the boundaries of the city’s CRA (Community Redevelopment Agency) districts, generally encompassing the downtown corridor.

The ordinance will come before the city’s planning board and will have two public hearings before a formal vote.

Dade City Commissioners expressed consensus to draft an ordinance that would permit medical marijuana dispensaries within city limits, with certain restrictions. The ordinance will come before the city’s planning board and will have two public hearings before the matter is formally voted upon. (Kevin Weiss)

Dade City Mayor Camille Hernandez said an ordinance permitting medical marijuana dispensaries is “what’s in the best interest of the city.”

Hernandez noted Florida voters’ clear support of Amendment 2 in 2016.

“I do believe that the voters on medical marijuana were decisive in their vote. Over 71 percent (of Florida voters) voted in favor of medical marijuana dispensaries — and that is a big deal,” Hernandez said.

She continued: “I do believe it should be allowed within the municipal limits. I do believe it should be available for those that need it and are using it for the right reasons. I am concerned about having them right in our downtown corridor…but I do think we have a charge to make it accessible to those residents that have problems.”

Dade City has had a temporary ban on medical marijuana facilities since 2016, to study the potential impacts such facilities on the municipality.

That temporary moratorium followed the November 2016 amendment of Florida’s constitution to allow “the dispensing and use of marijuana for medical purposes by persons with debilitating diseases.”

The moratorium has been extended multiple times and is set to expire in March.

At the workshop, city attorney Nancy Stuparich advised the commission to take action instead of extending the moratorium again, which she said may create legal issues, as it creates a “de facto ban” on medical marijuana treatment centers.

The attorney also noted that letting the moratorium just expire would allow dispensaries throughout city limits, without certain zoning regulations set forth by the commission.

The mayor said it’s unfair to keep extending the moratorium.

“We’ve got to take a stand and say, ‘We’re going to go this way or that way.’ I think we owe it to the people in our community,” Hernandez said.

Other cities in Pasco County, including Zephyrhills and San Antonio, have passed ordinances establishing regulations to allow dispensaries. The county’s first medical marijuana dispensary opened last June in New Port Richey.

Commissioner Scott Black was the lone dissenter.

He favored banning the dispensaries altogether for the time being because of the shifting legal implications of marijuana laws. (Several states, including Florida have already legalized marijuana; federal law still prohibits the cultivation, distribution, possession of the substance.)

“Just because all the other cities are rushing out to do this doesn’t mean we have to join in there, too,” Black said.

“If we say, ‘Not at this time,’ we’re not saying no forever. It just seems like a wise thing, in my opinion, that we wait until all of this gets settled. I think if we can be patient, it will all work itself out.”

Black also pointed out that Dade City residents are able go to other nearby cities to access medical marijuana treatment, or can choose to have it ordered through the mail.

“I think that those that are suffering — and I feel for them — there are opportunities for them to get medication,” he said.

Residents and business owners express mixed feelings
“I’m really concerned if we’re not patient and we’re not careful, we’re going to end up with something that we don’t want,” said Margaret Angell, who chairs the Dade City Merchant’s Association. “I know that we all understand that we don’t want a dispensary in the CRA, but it sounds like it’s going to be pretty complicated as far as trying to navigate that and how to do that.

“I don’t mind if it’s out there somewhere else and has low impact. My concern is about the downtown and conserving the economic space there and the atmosphere that we depend on. I just would urge us to be very, very cautious.”

Lynette DiNova, who owns Tropical Wine Shop in Dade City, also echoed a wait-and-see approach before approving any cannabis dispensaries within city limits.

“I think to rush into it just to do something is not fair to anyone,” DiNova said. “I think (commissioner) Black should be listened to as far as waiting, finding out what the right thing is, to protect the people that (commissioners) are here to take care of.”

“Don’t do something just to do it,” she said.

Vance Scheer, a retired educator and Dade City resident, spoke in favor of allowing medical marijuana dispensaries in Dade City.

“We’re talking pain management for our residents,” Scheer said. “We have a big opioid crisis and many of them are finding relief in (medical marijuana). It’s not going to be downtown, but we have to have something for these people that are in this condition. “We’re servicing a lot of people, whether it’s vets or seniors or people that are suffering from cancer.

“We need to be offering these services for our residents,” Scheer added.

Another speaker, Janet Blackburn, who works at Tampa Bay Salvage in Dade City, said she wouldn’t oppose a cannabis dispensary, as long as it isn’t downtown.

“I have no problem with it on the outskirts of (U.S.) 301 or whatever,” she said, “but not in downtown.”

Published January 16, 2019

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