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Smoke lifts from Florida county marijuana dispensary decision

Communities across Florida are assessing damage done by Hurricane Irma. We urge readers to support relief efforts and lend a helping hand when possible.

Florida communities are also returning to the business that was at hand before the storm struck, which in many cases included evaluations of land use and zoning regulations that could affect the opening of marijuana dispensaries. We're going to take a brief look today at a county on the other side of the state that has wrestled with the idea of allow dispensaries and made a decision, though it's one that isn't welcomed by all.

Regular readers will recall that we posted about the state law that allows Florida cities and counties to either ban medical marijuana dispensaries completely or allow unlimited numbers of them to open. There is no apparent middle ground provided for in the law.

In Manatee County, the Board of County Commissioners recently came down on the side of allowing dispensaries to open. According to documents posted on the county's website, commissioners voted 4-1 to treat the cannabis dispensaries -- referred to by the county as "medical treatment center dispensing facilities" -- the same as pharmacies are treated regarding zoning. The only difference is that the dispensaries cannot open with 500 feet of an elementary school.

A recent letter to a local newspaper by an opponent of the dispensaries pointed out that marijuana is, according to federal law, an illegal drug. The letter also points out that patients in need of medical marijuana can currently get home deliveries.

"Manatee County is already in the middle of one drug crisis," the writer states. "Do we really want to move precipitously toward another?"

Land use and zoning issues rarely make headlines, though they often evoke deep emotions among people directly affected.

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