Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Business

Hillsborough creates 750-foot buffer to limit medical marijuana centers

TAMPA

Hillsborough County recently approved a slew of new rules for where medical marijuana dispensaries can operate.

One rule that didn't make the cut was a limit on the number of dispensaries that can operate within county limits.

But don't expect a marijuana business to open on every street corner just because there is no cap on their number.

For starters, these rules only apply to unincorporated Hillsborough, not the three cities within county boundaries. Tampa is working on its own set of regulations and currently has a moratorium in place to prevent any new businesses for now.

Second, Hillsborough's new ordinance prohibits these dispensaries from opening within 750 feet from a slew of places like schools and bars. The list of establishments with this buffer includes:

•Churches/synagogues, schools, child care centers, public libraries, community recreational facilities and parks

•Residentially zoned parcels

•Establishments that sell beer, wine and liquor for consumption on or off the premises.

That knocks out a big chunk of the county and basically pushes these businesses to the outskirts of population centers. The regulations also say marijuana businesses cannot operate within 750 feet of each other, so there won't be a Weed District forming in Hillsborough any time soon.

Finally, the dispensaries can only open in certain commercial and manufacturing zones and few of these aren't disqualified by the aforementioned 750-foot buffer rules.

There are small pockets of these zones scattered throughout the county but they're mostly concentrated in the unincorporated area immediately north of Tampa International Airport, some parts of South Shore, just east of Orient Road in Tampa and south of Temple Terrace.

It's possible some of these businesses won't consider it profitable to set up shop so far from where people live, which could drive down the number of applicants for licenses.

It's worth noting, too, that lawmakers in Tallahassee can override all of this if they approve their own land use rules for medical marijuana centers. State law supersedes county ordinances.

A draft of the county ordinance originally restricted medical marijuana licenses to one for every 67,222 unincorporated residents. That would amount to 13, or 11 new ones considering two dispensaries already are open — Trulieve on North Dale Mabry Highway and Surterra on East Fowler.

Commissioners narrowly voted 4-3 to remove that restriction so it's possible that more than 13 dispensaries will soon be operating in Hillsborough County, especially if the Legislature pushes through a large-scale expansion of medical marijuana in response to the approval of Amendment 2.

Contact Steve Contorno at [email protected] or (813) 326-3433. Follow @scontorno.

By Steve Contorno

Times Staff Writer

TAMPA — Hillsborough County recently approved a slew of new rules for where medical marijuana dispensaries can operate.

One rule that didn't make the cut was a limit on the number of dispensaries that can operate within county limits.

But don't expect a marijuana business to open on every street corner just because there is no cap on their number.

For starters, these rules only apply to unincorporated Hillsborough, not the three cities within county boundaries. Tampa is working on its own set of regulations and currently has a moratorium in place to prevent any new businesses for now.

Second, Hillsborough's new ordinance prohibits these dispensaries from opening within 750 feet from a slew of places like schools and bars. The list of establishments with this buffer includes:

•Churches/synagogues, schools, child care centers, public libraries, community recreational facilities and parks

•Residentially zoned parcels

•Establishments that sells beer, wine and liquor for consumption on or off the premises.

That knocks out a big chunk of the county and basically pushes these businesses to the outskirts of population centers. The regulations also say marijuana businesses cannot operate within 750 feet of each other, so there won't be a Weed District forming in Hillsborough any time soon.

Finally, the dispensaries can only open in certain commercial and manufacturing zones and few of these aren't disqualified by the aforementioned 750-foot buffer rules.

There are small pockets of these zones scattered throughout the county but they're mostly concentrated in the unincorporated area immediately north of Tampa International Airport, some parts of South Shore, just east of Orient Road in Tampa and south of Temple Terrace.

It's possible some of these businesses won't consider it profitable to set up shop so far from where people live, which could drive down the number of applicants for licenses.

It's worth noting, too, that lawmakers in Tallahassee can override all of this if they approve their own land use rules for medical marijuana centers. State law supersedes county ordinances.

A draft of the county ordinance originally restricted medical marijuana licenses to one for every 67,222 unincorporated residents. That would amount to 13, or 11 new ones considering two dispensaries already are open — Trulieve on North Dale Mabry Highway and Surterra on East Fowler.

Commissioners narrowly voted 4-3 to remove that restriction so it's possible that more than 13 dispensaries will soon be operating in Hillsborough County, especially if the Legislature pushes through a large-scale expansion of medical marijuana in response to the approval of Amendment 2.

Contact Steve Contorno at [email protected] or (813) 326-3433. Follow @scontorno.

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