Duval School Board Wants To Deter Medical Marijuana Dispensaries From Opening Near Schools

Jul 10, 2018

State law says medical marijuana dispensaries are allowed to open up where pharmacies can, which means a couple different types of commercial zones in Jacksonville.

Local city governments can follow that rule, or ban dispensaries outright. Jacksonville City Council decided to allow them.

In addition, medical marijuana facilities aren’t allowed to open up 500 feet from schools per state statute. However, a bill going through the City Council process sets up a waiver process, which is what’s used for businesses with liquor licenses.

Under the bill, a potential dispensary within 500 feet of a school could argue it’s not directly visible from the school. An example might be a highway between the two. Or it could argue the dispensary was part of the design of a mixed-use development.

During Tuesday’s Duval County Public Schools board workshop, members addressed other conditions they would like to City Council add to a dispensary wanting to open near a school to deter it from happening.  Around 30 Duval schools are near commercial zones.

Board Chair Paula Wright said high school students in particular may find medical marijuana dispensaries appealing.

“We have to be diligent in terms of making certain that parents are fully aware of what may come into a community and we also have to be vigilant to make certain that if we can ensure that this type of dispensary is not near a school, then we have to do our jobs,” said Wright.

The board is requesting that City Council require dispensaries wanting to open within 500 feet of a school to have armed security guards.

Board member Warren Jones said guards are being recommended because dispensaries take payments in cash only, due to marijuana being illegal under federal law, locking marijuana dollars out of banks. He said his main issue with dispensaries near schools is he’s concerned about potential robberies.

However, WJCT News has previously reported on a cashless payment system that is being rolled out for Florida’s medical marijuana dispensaries that may somewhat negate an all-cash business model.

The board will also request if one dispensary is allowed near a school, a second can’t be within 2,500 feet of it.

And the board wants to make clear the 500-feet measurement be from property line to property line. That way the city’s planning commission couldn’t interpret the distance requirement from front door to front door.

The school board will ask the city’s land use and zoning committee to add these suggested requirements to the bill, which is expected to be voted on by the full council later this month.

Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at lkilbride@wjct.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride.