By Agrippina Fadel
Tamarac “has enough marijuana dispensaries” and will not approve any new applications from businesses looking to open such stores or pharmacies within city limits, according to the city commission.
At the January 11 meeting, commissioners agreed to instruct the staff to prepare the regulations banning any future dispensaries and institute zoning in progress, effective January 12, which would stop any new applications from being submitted.
Commissioner Elvin Villalobos said, “we have enough dispensaries,” Vice Mayor Marlon Bolton and Mayor Michelle Gomez both expressed that the current number of stores was enough for the city’s needs.
There are currently three medical marijuana dispensaries in the city, with another waiting for a license and another application in the works.
The conversation started during the discussion of the ordinance suggesting requalifying the permit for medical marijuana dispensaries and pharmacies as “accessory use,” which would have made the city regulations for such businesses more restrictive. The commission decided to go a step further and ban them altogether.
Maxine Calloway, director of community development, explained the state first gave the cities an option to adopt regulations on medical marijuana or ban dispensaries in 2018. In June of that year, Tamarac decided to ban them, but shortly after, the city staff surveyed the residents to see whether they wanted to have dispensaries.
After the survey results showed the residents favored having such businesses in Tamarac, the city lifted the ban in 2019, allowing medical marijuana dispensaries permitted in mixed-use and commercial zones.
“After we received our first three applications for medical marijuana dispensaries, the city amended its code again in September 2022, and instead of making use permitted by right in those two zoning districts, we changed it to a public hearing process and made it a special exception,” Calloway said. The amendment meant the applicants had to go through a more complicated process to get approval from the city.
She reminded commission members medical marijuana dispensaries are entirely regulated by the state and follow specific rules that the city adopted, such as 500 feet distance separation from schools.
Calloway added that there are 740,000 qualified patients in Florida, served by 450 medical marijuana dispensaries statewide, of which Broward County has 25. She said Plantation, Lauderhill, North Lauderdale, Margate, Miramar, and Lauderdale Lakes all ban dispensaries, and Deerfield Beach instituted a ban after permitting eight dispensaries to open.
Dispensaries are allowed with conditional use in Coral Springs, Sunrise, Coconut Creek, Fort Lauderdale, and Oakland Park.
Gomez said that the businesses with existing licenses in the city should operate freely, but she would be “more comfortable putting the ban back in effect.”
“I know there was a need in our city. I believe that we showed that there is a sufficient avenue for people to [fulfill] that need,” she said. “The city needs other businesses and should not be surrounded by marijuana dispensaries, vape shops, and all that other kind of stuff that only serves part of the population.”
- Agrippina Fadel grew up in Siberia and received her master's in journalism from Tyumen State University. Agrippina is also a writer and editor at Draftsy.net. She has been a US resident for over ten years and speaks English and Russian.
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