Winter Garden is on track to prohibit medical marijuana dispensing facilities within city limits, after approving the first reading of the ordinance that would allow it to do so.
City leaders unanimously approved the first reading of Ordinance 17-24 during the Thursday, July 13, commission meeting. Although roughly 70% of Florida voters were in favor of legalizing medical marijuana last fall, the problem city leaders faced was that dispensaries are treated the same as pharmacies in terms of zoning.
Residents in attendance expressed their disapproval of the ordinance and urged city leaders to allow medical marijuana dispensaries.
“I think it’s very important to be aware of the many medical benefits (of marijuana) as shown by many scientific studies,” Winter Garden resident Sherri Allen told commissioners. “I believe the provision in the recent state law which allows cities and municipalities to ban medical marijuana facilities merely provides a way to circumvent the will of the citizens of Florida who voted to legalize it. …A ban in the city will unfairly restrict availability. …I urge you not to leave Winter Garden in the past but embrace the future in regard to medical marijuana and not pass this ordinance.”
Winter Garden resident Joseph Richardson added that dispensaries within city limits would also serve people outside of the city.
“I know that some people, perhaps even you, have a strong opinion about cannabis, but please don’t let that interfere with your analysis of the facts,” Richardson said during the public hearing.
But city leaders have their hands tied by state law, which doesn’t allow municipalities to designate special zoning rules, and the other option is to ban dispensaries outright.
The ban would not affect Knox Medical’s Winter Garden nursery, which is home to a medical marijuana processing center and offers home delivery.