Medical Marijuana in Boca? Topic Still up for Debate

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By: Diane Emeott Korzen

Boca Raton officials are still grappling with the decision of whether to allow medical marijuana dispensaries to open within the city limits.

Boca Raton City Council held its most recent discussion on Medical Marijuana Regulations at a Monday afternoon, Workshop meeting on Aug. 26.

Council member Andy Thomson requested that if the city were to consider allowing the dispensaries – which, under state law, have to be treated the same as CVS or Walgreens pharmacies once a municipality decides to allow them in their city – the separation distance between dispensaries would be increased to 5,000 feet, instead of 2,500-feet.

The state already requires dispensaries not be within 500 feet of a school.

Medical marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

“Over 70 percent of Boca Raton residents voted ‘for’ Medical Marijuana. This is what they want!” Council Member Monica Mayotte referred to Amendment 2 passing on Nov. 8, 2016.

But council members Jeremy Rodgers and Andrea Levine O’Rourke expressed concerns.

Rodgers referred to Lake Worth, which, shortly after they approved dispensaries in their city, two opened up.

“Now they’ve un-approved it [additional dispensaries] because they are afraid of proliferation. I’m not in a rush to vote up or down. I’m still not positive on it,”he said.

Levine O’Rourke wondered how many dispensaries might open up in Boca if Council allowed it.

“City limits is a very small area,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to see it overrun.”

She said she was “very cautious about the quantity in moving forward, and being as stringent as possible with regulation.”

Mayor Scott Singer asked staff to ring in on Thomson’s request, adding that next steps would include: getting the new regulation drafted; and a recommendation from the Planning & Zoning Board.

“Then we can move forward with discussing and voting on it,” Singer said.

Boca’s public information officer Chrissy Gibson said staff is working to get an ordinance to the planning and zoning board to consider before the end of the year.

Boca Raton was among the first municipalities to ban Medical Marijuana dispensaries in October 2014. They continue to revisit it and, so far, have continued the moratorium.

Several residents said they would like to see dispensaries in the city of Boca.

“It’s a dispensing facility, not a [marijuana] cultivation facility,” Michael Liss said. “More than 50 percent of the clients are over 55 years old. You get a box of the product, with a prescription label on it, and walk out the door.”

Boca real estate agent Eric Sevell said there is a stigma attached to medical marijuana and the issue “gets a level of scrutiny unlike any other.”