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The state has yanked control of medical marijuana dispensaries from local governments by creating its own set of regulations, sending some Treasure Coast governments scrambling to adapt. NICOLE RODRIGUEZ/TCPALM
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The state has grabbed control of medical marijuana dispensaries away from local governments by creating its own set of regulations, sending some Treasure Coast governments scrambling to adapt.

The Legislature earlier this month passed Senate Bill 8A, which trumps local laws that cities and counties have imposed to regulate where and how medical marijuana dispensaries can operate.

Gov. Rick Scott has pledged to sign the bill.

Passed June 9, the bill prohibits local governments from creating more restrictive laws for dispensaries than they have for pharmacies. At the same time, it gives governments the power to ban the facilities entirely. 

The law would prohibit local governments from establishing required distances between dispensaries. Some governments, such as St. Lucie County, already had done just that.

More: St. Lucie County rules will allow up to 8 medical-marijuana dispensaries | Videos

Scott’s anticipated signature means several Treasure Coast governments now must repeal or change rules and regulations they already created.

Vero Beach currently allows medical marijuana dispensaries as a conditional use in areas zoned for industry, and restricts them to at least 1,000 feet from any school, day care center or public park — regulations in conflict with the impending state law.

Vero Beach approved what could become the Treasure Coast’s first dispensary, Clearwater-based Trulieve, which plans to open on Commerce Avenue in Vero Beach after getting approval last month from the Planning and Zoning Commission. 

Indian River County now is considering an outright ban on dispensaries, and Stuart is considering either extending its one-year moratorium indefinitely or allowing dispensaries that qualify under the new state rules.

Martin County, which already imposed regulations on where medical marijuana dispensaries can open, now is exploring changing them.

“It is likely we will need to tweak our code somewhat now that the legislation is done,” Growth Management Department Director Nicki van Vonno said in an email.

For unincorporated St. Lucie County, the new state rules could increase the allowable number of dispensaries from eight to 64 by eliminating the county’s requirement of 5 miles between dispensaries, which the County Commission just passed.

The new rules, however, would have no impact on the anticipated July opening of the county’s first dispensary, also operated by Trulieve, at 8613 U.S. 1, in the Crowne Plaza shopping center, said county Planning and Development Services Director Leslie Olson. 

“We plan to use the state rules for this one until staff has amended the county’s ordinance” to comply with state law, Olson said Monday.

Port St. Lucie officials on Monday were prepared to approve local regulations until the state imposed its own.

Vice Mayor Shannon Martin was displeased with the state’s move.

“I appreciate and support 100 percent the will of the voters” to allow medical marijuana, Martin said. “What I don’t appreciate is the Legislature’s attack on home rule, which is our arm of self governance in making decisions for our own communities.”

The bill prohibits dispensaries prohibited from selling alcohol, requires they have 24-hour surveillance systems and that they be located at least 500 feet from schools. They can operate between 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The bill restricts the number of dispensing facilities each operator initially may establish to 25. Operators are allowed to run five additional dispensing facilities for every 100,000 active patients.

Operators must pass a Level 2 background check, which includes fingerprint checks against state and national databases.

Local governments across Florida have been hashing out rules and regulations for dispensaries since Florida voters on Nov. 8 passed Amendment 2, legalizing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

The constitutional amendment allows medical marijuana to be prescribed to treat cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, post-traumatic stress disorder, ALS, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.

Read or Share this story: http://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/local/shaping-our-future/growth/2017/06/19/local-medical-marijuana-rules-likely-scrapped-wake-new-state-dispensary-bill/404484001/