Medical marijuana centers closer to reality

Jesse Hollett
Posted 9/6/17

ORANGE PARK – An ordinance that would provide a pathway for medical marijuana treatment centers in the Town of Orange Park passed a first reading Tuesday and proceeds to a second reading and …

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Medical marijuana centers closer to reality

Posted

ORANGE PARK – An ordinance that would provide a pathway for medical marijuana treatment centers in the Town of Orange Park passed a first reading Tuesday and proceeds to a second reading and possible approval at a Sept. 19 public hearing.

Despite concerns from Council Member Ron Raymond, town council unanimously voted to shuttle forward an ordinance that would allow dispensaries to set up in Orange Park town limits. The ordinance also clarifies which zoning categories pharmacies could setup shop.

Under the Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative, also known as Amendment 2, municipalities can choose to allow or disallow dispensaries, but cannot zone them differently than they would a pharmacy.

This rule has made the town reassess how it zones current pharmacies.

Under the ordinance, pharmacies, including dispensaries, would be permitted to open in commercial general and commercial intensive zoning districts. Dispensaries can also setup shop within planned unit development districts.

However, the ordinance would require a 500-foot buffer between pharmacies and dispensaries, with the hope that, should the ordinance pass, the town would not become a ‘marijuana highway.’

The town has in place a similar buffer zone between gas stations. That rule, and the proposed ordinance, come with a pathway to apply for a variance against the rule. The council could examine each pharmacy separately if business owners require a variance from the ordinance.

Dispensaries must also keep a 500-foot buffer between it and any schools.

The town currently has a one-year moratorium on dispensaries set to expire Oct. 1. Alternatively, the town could choose to extend the moratorium on dispensaries.

The Green Cove Springs City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to pass to second reading an ordinance that would extend the city’s medical marijuana moratorium another six months.

Orange Park residents voted 67 percent in favor of Amendment 2, which passed in the November 2016 general election with broad support across the state.

Despite his concerns, Raymond voted affirmatively to advance the measure to a public hearing.

Raymond said considering other municipalities have voted to move in the opposite direction with dispensaries, he is concerned the town might be the only place in the area residents can go to get their medicine.

“I just don’t want the town to become the marijuana capital of the planet,” Raymond said.

In other business, the town voted to adopt a tentative budget and tentative millage rate. As adopted, the tentative millage rate remains the same as the year prior, 6.1818 mills, despite a more than 4 percent increase in the tax digest due to increasing property values within the town.

The tentative budget includes a number of capital projects and improvements to town equipment. The budget also allocates money for storm water cleanup from recent thunderstorms and the remaining refuse from Hurricane Matthew that barreled across Florida last October.

Also in sanitation, the town council voted to direct Town Manager Jim Hanson to research their current contract with Advanced Disposal to look for ways to ensure the company examines its work and ensures there is proper quality control measures.

This comes after years of complaints from residents who claim the company’s performance is often sloppy.

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