PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – In the months since the majority of Florida voters said yes to medical marijuana, several Tampa Bay area counties have taken steps to temporarily ban new dispensaries.
Pasco County has one more public hearing scheduled before officials will decide whether to ban dispensaries. On Tuesday Pasco commissioners heard from experts. The experts main message was, like it or not, medical marijuana is coming to Florida.
Neurologist Ronald Aug-Din prescribes medical marijuana every day. He said it saves lives. “I see a lot of patients with intractable seizures and other debilitating conditions that traditional medicines have not met the needs,” Aug-Din said.
Commissioners said this is about educating the county.
“I think what is important is education. Again, this is something new for us. You can’t just jump into the pool and think you’re going to swim,” Pasco County Commission Chairman Mike Moore said.
If a ban were to happen in Pasco County, it would be because of zoning, some officials claimed. “We have to think about public safety,” Moore said.
But a zoning architect said dispensaries are nothing more than an upscale drug store.
“Not a threat to public safety and welfare, are not a threat to increased fire or traffic congestion. They’re high-end retail developments,” Architect Mark Jonotti said.
Counties looking to take action on medical marijuana may just have to wait. “There’s certain things that we are going to have to follow under the state level that we may not be able to impose here at the local level too. I hate to say it’s a wait and see, but it is a wait and see game,” Moore said.
Pasco County isn’t the only local government agency discussing medical marijuana. The City of Zephyrhills unanimously passed an ordinance to temporarily ban dispensaries from opening for up to 365 days. And, Hillsborough County officials approved a 6-month ban that prevents new dispensaries from opening.