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Medical Marijuana Legislation Signed

On June 23, 2017, Governor Scott signed legislation aimed at implementing Amendment 2: Florida’s constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana in the state. Senate Bill 8A (“SB 8A”) is poised to expand the use of medical marijuana that was previously enacted by the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014 (“Charlotte’s Web”).

SB 8A includes a number of provisions that impact local government regulation of medical marijuana; highlighted by the state preemption of regulating medical marijuana cultivation, processing, manufacturing, and delivery.  In addition to recognizing the 7 currently licensed Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (“MMTCs”) the bill requires the Florida Department of Health to license 10 new MMTCs by October 3, 2017. It also requires the Department of Health to issue 4 new MMTCs each time the Medical Marijuana Use Registry increases by 100,000 registered patients. The bill permits each MMTC to operate 25 dispensing organizations statewide; the number of dispensing organizations an MMTC may operate will increase by 5 each time 100,000 patients are added to the Medical Marijuana Use Registry. The cap on 25 is removed after April 1, 2020.

Despite the allowance for an increased number of medical marijuana dispensing facilities, local governments are permitted to ban them by ordinance. However, if a ban is not adopted by a local government, SB 8A appears to preempt the method of regulation of dispensaries as follows: (a) a local government may not place any restrictions on the number of dispensing facilities allowed, and (b) a local government cannot adopt any regulations for dispensing facilities that are more restrictive than its ordinances regulating pharmacies. The same permissions and limitations are placed on counties who may ban or regulate dispensing facilities in unincorporated areas of the county. The statute does not automatically impose these requirements; thus a city or county must proactively ban or regulate dispensaries similar to pharmacies.

While the bill requires that dispensing facilities be located at least 500 feet from an elementary, middle, or secondary school, municipalities and counties may forego the distance requirement through a formal public hearing proceeding. The bill also regulates MMTC advertisement, placing additional restrictions on signage beyond those regulations imposed by local governments. For instance, the statute sets out limitations on both the location and content of MMTC signage which can be seen by the public from a street, park, or other public place.

Unless the federal government decides to intervene, medical marijuana will become an inevitable part of Florida’s culture and economy. It is important for municipalities to remain mindful of the landscape that is shaped by these regulations.  Municipalities should not be content to remain idle if the desire is to prohibit these facilities.  Although much of the authority belongs to the State, cities and counties are still faced with the question of whether or not medical marijuana’s presence within their boundaries is beneficial or detrimental and should consider whether  to adopt a ban, or alternatively, to pass enforceable regulations which are consistent with the new state guidelines.

If you have any questions regarding Medical Marijuana from a Labor & Employment perspective, please contact Brett Schneider (bschneider@wsh-law.com) at (561) 835-2111. From a Land Use perspective, please contact Kathryn Mehaffey (kmehaffey@wsh-law.com) at (954) 763-4242. 

 

Categories: Land Use & Zoning (Public)Labor and Employment
Tags: Municipal Government