A Jacksonville City Council committee on Monday approved a bill addressing where medical marijuana dispensaries can set up shop.
The bill basically brings city code in line with new state laws, said Councilmember Lori Boyer.
State law says medical marijuana dispensaries are allowed to open up wherever pharmacies can, which, in Jacksonville, is in a few different types of commercial zones.
City and county governments can follow that rule or ban dispensaries outright. The Jacksonville City Council is taking a middle road: Dispensaries are allowed, but the bill would add restrictions on them as well as on pharmacies.
The bill prohibits both types of businesses from opening in commercial neighborhood zones, which Boyer describes as “kind of the transitional, lightest intensity commercial use next to residential.” Existing pharmacies in those zones would be grandfathered in.
Another part of the bill addresses dispensaries near schools. State law says they’re not allowed within 500 feet. But a waiver process allows for exceptions on a case-by-case basis, similar to what’s used by businesses with liquor licenses.
For example, a potential dispensary within 500 feet of a school could argue it’s not directly visible from the school because it’s separated by a highway between the two.
The Duval County School Board had asked Council to add several conditions for dispensaries that ask to open near schools. For one: If one dispensary were allowed near a school, a second wouldn’t be allowed within 2,500 feet of it. Members also wanted to require armed security guards and to make clear that the 500-foot measurement is from property line to property line, not front door to front door.
But School Board member Warren Jones said in a phone interview with WJCT News that state law doesn’t allow the 2,500-feet provision or armed guards.
However, City Councilmember Matt Schellenberg said he believes it would be nearly impossible for a dispensary to get a waiver approved.
“They have to demonstrate it promotes public health, safety and the general welfare of the community to get the waiver,” he said.
The full City Council will have the final say on the bill during a meeting later this month.
Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride.