Some Tampa Bay area governments working to ban medical marijuana

AP file photo
AP file photo

ZEPHYRHILLS, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida voters resoundingly said ‘yes’ to medical marijuana on Election Day. The measure, known as Amendment 2, was approved by 71 percent of voters.

“That is a clear mandate that the people wanted this,” said Chris Cano, executive director of Central Florida NORML.

Despite that vote, cities in the Tampa Bay area are now trying to ban medical marijuana. The City of Zephyrhills unanimously passed an ordinance to temporarily ban dispensaries from opening for up to 365 days.

“It’s still a federal offense to sell it. We need to be able to decide do we want it in a (commercial) zone. Do we want it next to a church, next to a daycare?” City Manager Steve Spina explained.

City leaders said they’re just being proactive. “We’re just trying to be in front of it before someone comes in and we can’t undo a placement of something,” Spina said.

Meanwhile, Hillsborough County officials approved a 6-month ban that prevents new dispensaries from opening.

In addition, Pasco County, Manatee County, and the Bradenton City Council have also considered temporary bans. None of those entities have approved such bans yet.

News Channel 8’s legal analyst called medical marijuana bans nonsense. “They’re basically just trying to say that they’re figuring stuff out when this is something that’ll be figured out on the state level, not the local level,” Felix Vega III, a prosecutor and analyst, said.

Medical marijuana advocates call it a safety issue.

“Why does an Alzheimer’s patient have to get home delivery or drive three cities to get access to a life-saving medication that they need?” Cano questioned. “You have these last few elements fighting back to try and hold onto power, and it’s just a failed fight.”

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