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Congress included a provision in its new budget bill that says the Department of Justice can’t spend money on medical marijuana prosecutions.
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Medicinal marijuana dispensaries should be able to open in Collier County as soon as October.

County commissioners voted Tuesday, 4-1, to shorten a temporary ban they had placed on the dispensaries from February to Oct. 10.

In short, the county doesn’t need until February to write regulations over where the dispensaries can open and how many will be allowed to operate in the county, said Mike Bosi, zoning director.

“Originally, we wanted to wait until the end of the state’s legislative session to see what they were going to do,” Bosi said. “Now we know they’re not going to produce anything, so now is the time to move forward.”

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The county will vet proposed regulations during public meetings that will be scheduled for this summer, Bosi said. A proposal will be ready to be voted on by commissioners in early October, he said.

State lawmakers wrapped up their 2017 session without coming up with a regulatory framework for medicinal marijuana dispensers. Florida voters legalized much broader uses of medicinal marijuana by approving a constitutional amendment in November.

The amendment gives the state health department until July to come up with regulations for the manufacture, sale and use of medicinal marijuana.

Voters here strongly supported the amendment, 64 percent to 36 percent.

Placing a moratorium on the practice goes against the will of the voters, said Commissioner Bill McDaniel, who cast the lone vote against keeping a moratorium.

“We have to allow these entities to exist, and I think it’s paramount that we move along as quickly as possible,” McDaniel said.

The county needs to do the best it can to make sure dispensaries are regulated, Commissioner Burt Saunders said.

“We don’t want to prohibit the sale of medical marijuana,” he said. “It’s a legal drug and will be dispensed here; the question is the number and where. We do need a moratorium for a short period of time to figure that out.”

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