Saturday, February 24, 2018
News Roundup

Hillsborough commissioners approve guidelines for medical marijuana businesses

TAMPA — Medical marijuana dispensaries won't be able to operate near schools, bars or one another, but there won't be a limit on the number of marijuana businesses that can operate in Hillsborough County after all, commissioners decided Tuesday.

To the shock of even some colleagues, Commissioner Pat Kemp narrowly won support by a 4-3 vote to strip provisions that would have limited the number of dispensaries to 13 in all of unincorporated Hillsborough. She also won enough votes for an amendment that removed a point system for awarding the limited number of licenses, which heavily benefited a handful of medical marijuana businesses already licensed by the state.

"This is a giveaway right now to existing license holders," Kemp said. "I don't think we should be spending our taxpayer dollars to create this entire licensing scheme."

Commissioners ultimately voted 7-0 to approve the ordinance that enables medical marijuana dispensaries to operate in Hillsborough County with some restrictions.

Kemp's victory was applauded by dozens of medical marijuana advocates who spoke out during Tuesday evening's public hearing against the proposed limits as a way to restrict access and drive up prices.

The vote comes as the Florida Department of Health and the Legislature consider a large medical marijuana expansion following last year's statewide referendum that will allow more patients to be prescribed the drug. As it stands, only seven companies are permitted to grow or sell in the state. All of them were approved under the 2014 law allowing low-THC strains of marijuana for a limited pool of patients.

Under Hillsborough's proposed rules, dispensaries would have had 30 days to apply for a limited number of licenses — one for every 67,000 residents in unincorporated areas.

The approval period likely would have closed long before any decision about medical marijuana expansion is made in Tallahassee. That's 13 licenses, two of which have already been taken by companies that set up shop before commissioners approved a six-month moratorium on medical marijuana operations in October.

If Florida opens up medical marijuana to more companies or businesses, they likely would not have been be able to get licenses in Hillsborough County until the population increased. And because the application rules gave significant consideration to companies with existing operations, Florida's seven currently operating companies would have had a significant advantage.

But Kemp's amendment changed all that and ultimately means any marijuana business that gets approval from the state in the future can still set up shop in Hillsborough County.

They will still have to abide by new land-use restrictions commissioners approved Tuesday.

Under those guidelines, medical marijuana dispensaries must be at least 750 feet from schools, parks and other community gathering places, as well as any business that sells alcohol. Dispensaries will largely be relegated to 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.

They also can't be within 750 feet of another dispensary.

Commissioner Les Miller, the lone dissent on the land-use vote, pleaded with his colleagues to wait until lawmakers and regulators in Tallahassee finalize their own rules for marijuana before enacting local policies. The outcome could pre-empt whatever Hillsborough County passed Tuesday, he warned.

"We're putting the cart before the horse," Miller said.

However, the majority of the board wanted to put policies in place before the county's moratorium expires in April.

"The Legislature is going to do what the Legislature is going to do," Commissioner Ken Hagan said. "I, for one, think we should show leadership on this issue and move forward today."

Contact Steve Contorno at [email protected] or (813) 226-3433. Follow @scontorno.

Comments
Police: Man, 60, arrested for fleeing from fatal Largo pedestrian crash

Police: Man, 60, arrested for fleeing from fatal Largo pedestrian crash

LARGO — A 60-year-old man who police said was the driver in a fatal pedestrian hit-and-run on East Bay Drive from three days prior was arrested by Largo Police on Saturday, the department said.Victor Bonavita was arrested on three charges in relation...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Sheriff: Roads reopen after Tampa crash results in natural gas leak near Citrus Park Mall

Sheriff: Roads reopen after Tampa crash results in natural gas leak near Citrus Park Mall

TAMPA — Officials reopened roads near Citrus Park Mall Saturday evening that had been closed in the afternoon for a natural gas leak caused by a car crash, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said. The Sheriff’s Office and Hillsborough County Fi...
Updated: 5 hours ago

boca ratonState lawmakerencourages Scott to remove sheriffA lawmaker is calling on Florida Gov. Rick Scott to remove Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel from office after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. In a letter sent to ...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Two airlinescut ties withNRA aftershootings

The National Rifle Association lashed out at corporations rushing to abandon it on Saturday, as companies from United Airlines to Best Western have cut ties with the gun lobby organization.Without context, twin announcements from Delta and United air...
Updated: 5 hours ago

‘Up to States’ to armteachers, Trump tweets

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump appeared Saturday to begin refining his proposals for combatting school violence, tweeting that arming teachers as a deterrent against such often deadly violence — an idea he championed in recent days — is "Up to S...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Security Council demands30-day cease-fire in Syria

Security Council demands30-day cease-fire in Syria

UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution Saturday demanding a 30-day cease-fire across Syria "without delay" to deliver humanitarian aid to millions and evacuate the critically ill and wounded. U.N. humanitarian ch...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Updated: 6 hours ago
Call her more than just a survivor

Call her more than just a survivor

TAMPA — On the quiet morning of Oct. 8, 2011, a 30-ton freight truck ran a stop sign in the small town of Clinton, Conn.It ran over Colleen Kelly Alexander, who was riding a bicycle.The truck's front wheels crushed her, then spit her to the bac...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Police: Male motorcyclist crashed, then the driver was run over by two cars

Police: Male motorcyclist crashed, then the driver was run over by two cars

TAMPA — A male motorcyclist died early Saturday morning on the Courtney Campbell Causeway, the Tampa Police Department said.About 1:35 a.m., the victim rode his motorcycle west on the Courtney Campbell at high speeds, police said. The motorcycle stru...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Northeast High alumnus Jon Mott wins 3rd Gasparilla 15K crown

Northeast High alumnus Jon Mott wins 3rd Gasparilla 15K crown

TAMPA — Roughly 20 minutes into Saturday morning's Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic 15K, reigning champ A.J. Richmond glanced over his left shoulder to former college teammate Jon Mott and flashed a quick hand signal."He was telling me that t...
Updated: 10 hours ago