Oldsmar officials say ‘no’ to medical marijuana dispensaries

Oldsmar City Council members recently agreed to ban medical marijuana dispensaries in the city. An ordinance will be drafted and voted on during the first of two public hearings of the item on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017.

Oldsmar, like many communities in the Sunshine State, has grappled with the ramifications of Amendment 2, or the Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization bill, ever since it passed by a wide margin last November.

In February, the Oldsmar City Council enacted a temporary moratorium while officials weighed their options and waited for direction as to how to handle the potential establishment of such facilities within the city limits.

During a recent public workshop on the subject, City Attorney Tom Trask explained state legislation that passed in June left local lawmakers with three options regarding medical marijuana dispensaries: do nothing; treat them the same as pharmacies; or ban the facilities outright.

Jerry Beverland.

After being informed of their options, it didn’t take long for the five city council members to unanimously agreed to ban medical marijuana dispensaries in Oldsmar.

“I would support an ordinance for no dispensaries in town,” Council member Jerry Beverland said shortly after Trask finished speaking.

“I’m in favor of banning them,” Mayor Doug Bevis concurred.

Despite the quick decision, Trask went on to explain how Oldsmar currently doesn’t have any legislation on the books regarding the regulation of pharmacies, meaning a dispensary could open in any area zoned for retail in the city, with some restrictions.

This map shows where medical marijuana dispensaries could be allowed to operate in Oldsmar. According to new state legislation, the facilities are to be treated the same as pharmacies, with some restrictions based on proximity to schools. (Graphic: City of Oldsmar)

He also noted Oldsmar “is not an optimal place to open a dispensing facility” based on studies that show optimal locations feature populations that exceed 67,000 residents. Oldsmar has a population of roughly 14,000.

Citing those reasons as well as the fact that dispensaries are located two miles away in Hillsborough County and within four miles in Clearwater, Bevis said, “I think the others are close enough.”

Oldsmar City Council member Eric Seidel.

Council member Eric Seidel said he was “not insensitive to our voters,” 72 percent of whom voted in favor of the amendment in Oldsmar.

“I don’t think we can ignore that,” he said.

“But I think they do have access, and if the time comes where we have a demand in Oldsmar, we can go back and revisit it and create new legislation if need be.”

“I don’t think we should allow it at this time,” Seidel stated. “I don’t think there’s a need for it.”

Council member Gabby McGee said she agreed, and after Vice-Mayor Dan Saracki also said he was in favor of prohibiting the facilities, Mayor Bevis directed Trask and City Manager Al Braithwaite to draw up an ordinance to be heard and voted on at the first of two public hearings on Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis.

After the work session, the mayor elaborated on the reasons behind his decision.

“I think there’s adequate accessibility to ones in Tampa and Clearwater, and I don’t know that the demand is there from a patient standpoint in Oldsmar,” Bevis told Oldsmar Connect.

Noting the city’s lack of specific regulations for pharmacies, he said “if we try to regulate pharmacies, that’s a big task, so I’d rather do it this way.”

“It doesn’t mean we’re against medical marijuana,” Bevis added.

“I’m all in favor of it for people who need it. I just think we should do it at our own pace.”

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