Thanks to code change, Naples could soon see medical marijuana dispensaries

Medical Marijuana Being Prescribed by Doctor – Courtesy: Shutterstock – Image by Africa Studio

As of now, medical marijuana dispensaries have not been welcomed in Collier County, but that could change in a few months.

Collier zoning staff have been drafting an amendment to the county’s land development code to allow these dispensaries to run in the same zoning districts as pharmacies. 

The process could take several months because the zoning designation would have to first go through Collier County’s Planning Commission and win a supermajority vote from the Collier County Commission.

Bill McDaniel, commission chairman, requested and received support to begin the process by having staff plan the language for the designation at the board’s May 10 meeting.

According to McDaniel, there are currently no medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated Collier. “The city of Naples does not have any dispensaries,” said city spokeswoman Monique Barnhart.

State records show one dispensary located in Marco Island approved by a company named Muv at 695 Bald Eagle Drive. There are 28 in Lee County, including ten dispensaries in Bonita Springs.

In 2016, voters in the Sunshine State overwhelmingly approved an amendment to Florida’s constitution to legalize medical marijuana for patients dealing with debilitating conditions such as cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Parkinson’s disease, chronic pain, and more.

Patients who qualify get the marijuana under guidance from state-certified physicians and receive a qualified patient identification card.

According to the Office of Medical Marijuana Use, which operates within the State Department of Health, 2,300 physicians are registered to diagnose patients who could benefit from medical marijuana and approximately 717,000 Florida residents have qualified to be medical marijuana users in Florida.

There are 428 total dispensaries statewide.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, thirty-eight states have laws that allow medical marijuana as of February.

What does Florida law have to say?

The Florida law established in 2017 states that counties can both ban or allow dispensaries in the same zoning as pharmacies but not within 500 feet of schools.

Additionally, local governments do not have the authority to limit the number of dispensaries in the community or adopt rules that restrict more than the state regulation.

The Collier commission failed four times in 2018 to approve a land code amendment to allow dispensaries where pharmacies are located.

At the recent board meeting, McDaniel said that it is time to re-examine the issue since Florida dispensaries are legal.

Opponents have argued that medical marijuana could be a gateway drug but McDaniel emphasized that it has not been proven.

“The fear factor that was brought out about them have proven folly,” McDaniel said.

If the measure is finally approved, McDaniel wants to earmark Collier dispensary sales tax proceeds to local organizations that serve residents who need care for substance abuse and mental health issues.

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