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Hillsborough Caps Number Of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Julio Ochoa/WUSF
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

No more than 20 medical marijuana dispensaries would be allowed to open in unincorporated parts of Hillsborough County under new rules passed by commissioners on Wednesday.

But an expected vote by state legislators on a bill that would implement the amendment legalizing medical marijuana could negate the county's rules.  

County commissioners voted to cap the number of dispensaries based on population and also approved rules for how those dispensaries are chosen.

Under the rules 1.5 dispensaries can open for every 67,222 county residents. Since there are already two dispensaries in unincorporated Hillsborough, that means 18 more would be allowed to open over the next two years.

“I don't think it was the voter's intent to have a pot stand on every corner,” Commissioner Victor Crist said.

Most of the twelve residents who spoke during the hearing were against the measure.

Tampa resident Joe Redner said the commission was making rules to limit free enterprise.

“Do you know how hard it is to get one of these licenses? Hell, I can start a brewery in 100 places in the county without any caps on how many there are,” Redner said. “I can actually start a compounding drug manufacturing company in 100 places in this county without any caps on how many there are.”

The county will use a point system to choose which of the nine state-approved growers will be allowed to open dispensaries.

Commissioner Pat Kemp was the lone vote against the cap. She says she expects the county to be sued over the point system.

The county cap on dispensaries came after state legislators failed to agree on a plan to implement the medical marijuana amendment during the regular legislative session. Senators on Wednesday announced that they will try again during this week’s special session. 

Under the agreement that legislators are expected to vote on this week, there will be a limit of 25 retail dispensaries per medical marijuana treatment center, which can increase by five for every 100,000 patients added to the registry. The cap would expire on April 1, 2020. The legislation also adds 10 more medical marijuana treatment centers, meaning there would be 17 statewide by October. Four additional centers would be added for every 100,000 patients.

The number of retail outlets the vendors would be able to operate in each of five regions of the state would be based on the populations of the regions.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. 

Julio Ochoa is editor of Health News Florida.