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Pinellas County Commission moves toward moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Pinellas County Commissioners unanimously voted Tuesday to hold a public hearing Jan. 10 to decide a possible moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries and treatment centers.

The moratorium would remain in effect for 180 days to give the commission time to pass an ordinance regulating such issues as the location of dispensaries and treatment centers.

A proposed ordinance is expected to come before the board in April.

If the moratorium is adopted, Pinellas County will join other governmental bodies across the state that are trying to figure out how to handle the medical marijuana industry. The sale of medical marijuana became state law with the overwhelming passage in November of Amendment 2.

Locally, the city of Largo and Hillsborough County have already passed moratoria. Madeira Beach passed an ordinance last year requiring anyone who wants to open a dispensary to go through an approval process. Among the items that city officials would look at — compatibility with neighbors and how close the dispensary would be to schools, churches, parks, day cares and the like.

Pinellas commissioners wondered Tuesday if they could pass a countywide ordinance that would apply everywhere unless cities opted out. However, board attorney Jim Bennett said they could not because the location of dispensaries is a zoning issue and the county cannot control zoning within city limits.

Commissioner Karen Seel suggested working with the cities to come up with ordinances that would be adopted by all governments to make the rules uniform across Pinellas.

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