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Tampa City Council approves six month moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Following a similar measure passed by the Hillsborough County Commission last month, the Tampa City Council on Thursday approved an ordinance that would place a 180-day moratorium on accepting and/or processing for zoning and permitting for the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries.

The idea of medical marijuana in Florida is no longer an idea, but a reality after more than 71 percent of Florida voters approved Amendment 2 last week, which legalizes the selling and purchasing of pot for those who have a medical prescription.

The amendment is set to go into law on Jan. 3, 2017, but the Department of Health has yet to act on any regulations. That’s not expected to occur until after the Florida Legislature meets in their regularly scheduled session, beginning in March.

United for Care, the group behind the measure, said the ballot language gives the state up to six months to create rules for the process.

A few members of the public commented on the vote, which was simply about the moratorium. Some zealous anti-pot advocates used their time to criticize the idea of medical marijuana.

“Every state that has legalized for medical purposes has seen a significant increase in the rise of marijuana use,” said Teresa Miller. “Florida is already ranked among some of the highest youth users without medical marijuana.”

Ellen Snelling from the Tampa Alcohol Coalition approves of a six month moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries, and urged the council to look at other zoning ordinances already passed by local governments in places like Plant City, Hernando County, and Wilton Manors. She also raised the possibility that President-elect Donald Trump could go after the states that have legalized marijuana.

“We all have to keep in mind that no matter what the voters have passed, marijuana is illegal on the federal level,” Snelling said. “As time goes on, we may see a crackdown on federal drug law. It may be enforced. And that’s a real possibility now with the new administration that’s coming in.”

“I really support this moratorium,” said Gina Firth from the University of Tampa. “We have enough problems with alcohol. We have to take our time and really look at this carefully.”

City Councilman Frank Reddick promised he will present something to the council regarding the measure before the legislative session begins next March.

Under a law passed last year by the Legislature allowing for low-THC medicinal cannabis, patients are required to obtain approval from two certified doctors, after which a 90-day waiting period takes effect.

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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