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Hillsborough Creates Framework For Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

District 1 Vice Chair Sandra Murman addresses the commission.
Carson Frame
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The Hillsborough County Commission is jumping ahead of the state legislature by creating a framework for medical marijuana dispensaries.

On Tuesday night the commission voted in support of a zoning ordinance that prevents dispensaries from operating within 750 feet of other dispensaries, as well as churches, schools, parks, bars and liquor stores.

Hillsborough resident Renee Petro's son is prescribed medical marijuana. She said she sees the zoning ordinance as a threat to patient access.

“I feel extremely offended that we're trying to limit access to my son's life-saving medicine," Petro said. "We want access and we want reasonable access."

Teresa Miller said she supports strict zoning around medical marijuana dispensaries, and even pushed that they be further away.

"I think we can all agree that we want to protect our children, families and communities from pot shops opening close to our homes, or end up with many of the problems that Colorado experienced when marijuana became legal for medical purposes in their state," Miller said.

The ordinance would only apply to unincorporated Hillsborough County -- not the cities of Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City.

The commission voted against putting a cap on the number of medical marijuana dispensary licenses issued by Hillsborough County.

An earlier proposal would only have allowed one dispensary license per 67,222 residents.

Commissioner Pat Kemp argued against that cap, saying it hurts Florida businesses and would raise the price of medication.

"It sounds like an oligarchy slash cartel," Kemp said. "That's what they do, lock up key markets and restrict access."

The commission also voted that medical marijuana dispensaries must adhere to certain operating and safety standards like background checks for employees.

Hillsborough County currently has a moratorium on granting new permits for medical marijuana dispensaries. It's scheduled to end April 4th.

In the state of Florida, there are seven facilities that have all-in-one licenses for medical marijuana, meaning that they can grow, process, sell and distribute the product. There are two operational dispensaries in Hillsborough County.

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Carson covers military and veteans issues for KSTX, the Texas Public Radio station in San Antonio.