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City Council Puts Up Roadblocks For Medical Marijuana Coming To Jacksonville

marijuana plant
Brett Levin

Medical marijuana that doesn’t induce a high is legal in Florida, but not exactly legal in Jacksonville. This week the City Council put a hold on growing, processing or dispensing marijuana in the city for at least six months.

Last year, the Florida Legislature legalized using non-smoked marijuana with little THC, the chemical that gets people high. The medicinal-grade weed is most commonly prescribed to kids who suffer from seizures.

The Jacksonville City Council passed an emergency-basis ordinance, 2015-436, ensuring no nursery or dispensary will enter the cannabis business for at least six months.

Councilman Richard Clark and City Council President Clay Yarborough sponsored the bill. Clark says it gives the city time to decide on regulations for potential marijuana-related businesses.

“Our entire ordinance code [and] all of our zoning codes are silent because marijuana’s never been legal in any form,” Clark said.

The legal strain is non-euphoric, but Clark says because it seems likely other forms may be legalized eventually, he wants strict regulations in place now.

“You need to treat them much like you do alcohol sales, liquor sales and adult entertainment, things like that, that our city has an ability to police,” Clark said.

Under the state law, only one nursery in North Florida can be licensed to grow the legal strain of marijuana. Nurseries that have been in business for at least 30 years and have the capacity for at least 400,000 plants are potential candidates.

Nurseries can start applying to the state for a license in a few weeks, but this new ordinance puts any potential Jacksonville grower in a tough spot.

“Well I think it virtually assures any nursery that’s going to produce low-THC cannabis is going to be located some place beside Duval County,” Rod Sullivan, a Jacksonville lawyer said.

He says an application from the Department of Health is very expensive, and without knowing what future city regulations might be, Jacksonville nurseries are at a disadvantage.

“I would not want to spend the money to apply for a Department of Health permit without knowing that I'd ever be able to get a construction or citing permit from Duval County,” Sullivan said.

But the ordinance won’t prevent North Florida patients from using the drug, as long as they can find a dispensary to buy it from and doctor who will prescribe it.

Photo Credit: "LEGAL Colorado Marijuana Grow" by Brett Levin is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Lindsey Kilbride was WJCT's special projects producer until Aug. 28, 2020. She reported, hosted and produced podcasts like Odd Ball, for which she was honored with a statewide award from the Associated Press, as well as What It's Like. She also produced VOIDCAST, hosted by Void magazine's Matt Shaw, and the ADAPT podcast, hosted by WJCT's Brendan Rivers.