BAY COUNTY, Fla. - Officials all around Bay County have recently considered ordinances that will temporarily ban medical marijuana dispensaries. Because Florida voters approved the legalization of medical marijuana in November, this is causing confusion and frustration for some residents.
Many people believe the county and cities are halting access, but there are actually a lot of other state-level regulations that have to be put in place as well. This means it will likely be months before anyone can get access to medical marijuana, regardless of these local ordinances.
Around Bay County, many residents are asking questions about local officials' plans when it comes to medical marijuana.
"People think that it's an attempt to limit access, it certainly is not," said Bob Majka, Bay County Manager.
Tuesday County Commissioners will vote on an ordinance that will place a temporary ban on medical marijuana dispensaries.
"I think there's been some misconception about the intent of that," said Majka.
The keyword is dispensaries, not medical marijuana itself. The only regulating they want to do - and are allowed to do - is with the location of these dispensaries.
"We're trying to take a proactive approach. Create a platform by which the community can have a conversation about this subject. Talk about where the community would like to see or not like to see the dispensaries in the community and then amend our land use code and comprehensive plan accordingly," said Majka.
Additionally, when Florida voters approved Amendment 2 back in November, medical marijuana was legalized, but it will still take a while before it's available.
"The starting line for this is January 3rd and then from that point forward the legislature and/or the department of health have to work together to create legislation," said Majka.
When that happens, the county and cities will be ready.
"Knowing that the state process will likely take nine months or more, we should certainly be where we need to be as a community before the state is ready to start issuing licenses to people to actually start operating dispensaries," said Majka.
If passed, the county's ordinance will go into affect within 10 days from when it's filed, and be in place for eight months from that point.
These ordinances will have no affect on those who had access to medical marijuana before the election.
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