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City of Sarasota legalizes marijuana dispensaries

MELISSA REID
Associate Publisher
mreid@lbknews.com

The Sarasota City Commission voted 5-0 on Monday to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in Sarasota.

“This is the last step to make marijuana dispensaries allowable in our city,” said Sarasota City Attorney Robert Fournier.

Four zoning districts will be allowed to have what are known as ‘freestanding’ dispensaries and those are the Downtown Core, General Commercial, Commercial Shopping Center-Regional and Intensive Commercial District. In the Downtown Core, dispensaries must be separated from each other by at least 1,000 feet. Other zoning districts will allow marijuana dispensaries as accessory uses, such as Sarasota Memorial Hospital, pharmacies and grocery stores.

Unlike Colorado or Washington State, which also allow recreational use, only individuals with a medical prescription will be able to obtain marijuana in Florida.

The formation of the city ordinance originated from the 2014 medical marijuana law known as “The Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014” that was enacted by the Florida Legislature. The state law authorizes a limited number of large nurseries to cultivate, process, and dispense non-euphoric, low THC cannabis and operate as dispensing organizations for individuals with certain specific serious ailments.

Louis Costello, a Sarasota resident who spoke to the commission at the meeting, advocated for passing the ordinance.

“I do not use recreational cannabis or medical cannabis. For me, it has always been a quality of life. Your job is to make the quality of life better for the citizens. We’ve been at this for four years now, with obstacle after obstacle. We just want to have the ability to have the alternatives. I’m in the process now of trying to help a family member get off a serious medication and it’s just a matter of mandating what we all voted for. If you guys put the dispensaries in place, people will have access. Florida in the next 5-10 years will be a fully legalized state. I ask you to please do the right thing here,” said Costello.

Another resident, Cathy Bryant, has a 22 year-old daughter who suffers from seizures and spoke before the commission regarding how marijuana helps relieve her daughter’s seizures.

“Marijuana has been very difficult to get, there is lots of paperwork and it’s very hard to access. Marijuana is the only thing that will help her with her seizures,” said Bryant.

Lastly, veteran Manny Lopez spoke about how marijuana is not as bad as other drugs, and is a viable alternative to prescriptions.

“I believe marijuana is not the gateway drug, alcohol is the gateway drug; and we allow that to be dispensed everywhere. Marijuana was present where I worked on my college campus, but alcohol was the real problem. Marijuana is not the big cloud that people make it out to be. Just look at the other countries and states that use it. Medical marijuana is not a perfect alternative, but it is better than the alternative. The prescribed drugs for these situations that I have as a veteran, are much worse than any side effects from marijuana. I do not know of marijuana being more dangerous. Some relief is better than nothing than when you’re dealing with some of these issues,” said Lopez.

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1 Response for “City of Sarasota legalizes marijuana dispensaries”

  1. Citizen LBK says:

    Mr. Lopez:

    Comparing pot to alcohol is a ridiculous comparison. They are both harmful! Police have a method to check for the legal amount of alcohol in one’s system when operating a motor vehicle. They don’t have
    such a method for measuring THC. There are far to many road fatalities already; let us not add to the problem.

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