By: Diane Emeott Korzen Contributing Writer
After declaring a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries in Boca Raton nearly 5 years ago, Boca City Council has made a move to possibly allow them in the city.
At a recent city council workshop, the topic allowing medical marijuana dispensaries to open in the city was discussed at length. The council ultimately directed staff to prepare an ordinance on allowing medical marijuana dispensaries after hearing from a number of impassioned experts and residents.
“I join with my colleagues in directing staff to draft regulations that would give residents access and revisit our zoning laws in the city,” said Mayor Scott Singer, adding that the size of the facility and the distance separation from other facilities should be considered. “We’ve been besieged by attacks on Home Rule [from state and federal government]. Had we not had this, the City of Boca Raton would likely have had something in place by now.”
As of press time the Boca City Clerk’s office said the ordinance was still being drafted and was not yet scheduled for a date to go before the council.
Boca Raton was one of the first municipalities in Palm Beach County to place a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries in October 2014. The vote was unanimous. Since then, the city council has been revisiting the item annually and extending the moratorium.
During the workshop, about 10 folks spoke on the subject.
Dr. Dominik Chrzan, a board-certified family practice physician with an emphasis on preventive medicine based in Boca, said he has been a medical cannabis physician since 2017.
“I’ve incorporated it into my [practice, on the campus of West Boca Medical Center] since there is no overdosing or addiction issues that come with it [compared to opioids prescribed by some doctors]. Most patients are cannabis naïve. It’s not just a matter of writing a prescription. There is quite a bit of state oversight,” he said.
Under the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014, certain dispensaries are allowed to operate within the state.
As of March 3, there are 15 approved dispensaries in Florida: MMTC, Surterra, Curaleaf, Knox Medical, Trulieve, Liberty Health Sciences, Vidacann, AltmedFlorida (Muv), Grow Healthy, Harvest, GTI (Rise Dispensaries), Columbia Care Florida, MedMen, Cannabis Cures Investments LLC, Acreage Florida Inc. (Acreage is on the approved list with no locations listed. Some of the dispensaries are delivery only), according to www.calmeffect.com/florida-medical-marijuana-dispensaries-info/.
Neighboring cities Lake Worth and Deerfield Beach allow dispensaries, but both cities have had to write new local rules to help keep the dispensaries located certain distances from each other and away from places like schools.
Under state law, dispensaries must be treated the same as pharmacies, which makes passing local rules difficult.
The first attempt to legalize medical marijuana at the state level failed in November 2014. The second referendum on Nov. 8, 2016 succeeded by overwhelming majority. More than 71 percent of Floridians voted in favor of medical marijuana – making Florida the 26th state to make marijuana legal for medical or recreational use. Amendment 2, and its expanded list of qualifying medical conditions, went into effect on Jan. 3, 2017.
Medical marijuana remains illegal under federal law.