Miami Springs Council Slams Florida Legislature for Inaction on Medical Marijuana

Three days after state lawmakers failed to pass a bill establishing rules for medical marijuana, Miami Springs Vice Mayor Bob Best shook his head at a council meeting Monday night as the city attorney explained it was time to extend the city's moratorium on dispensaries.

"The purpose of the moratorium was for us to have something ready when that hit, and, apparently, based on the legislative session, nothing's gonna happen," Best complained.

Mayor Billy Bain seemed especially perturbed.

"Frankly, the state broke the law," he said. "They didn't come up with the situation of how they wanted this to be distributed, and they kind of fumbled the ball there."

"They didn't do their job," Councilman Jaime Petralanda added.

Miami Springs is just one of many Florida cities struggling to figure out how to best zone medical marijuana dispensaries in light of the Legislature's inaction. Miami Beach, West Palm Beach, Marathon, Ocala, and Destin — plus Monroe, Marion, and Palm Beach Counties — have all passed moratoriums since 71 percent of voters approved a medical marijuana expansion in November.

Even law enforcement is holding out for guidance. At Monday's council meeting, Miami Springs Police Chief Armando Guzman said the Dade County Chiefs of Police Association was still waiting on word from state lawmakers about regulation.

"If we stop a car and somebody claims they have medical marijuana, well, what is the process?" Guzman asked. "In essence, it's really kind of up in the air for us right now also until we get some more concrete direction from the Legislature."

The state estimates that as many as 2 million patients could qualify for medical marijuana. But as session wrapped up Friday in Tallahassee, lawmakers couldn't agree on the provisions of a bill establishing regulations for how medical weed would be distributed and taxed. Florida's Department of Health now has until July 3 to establish rules for how to get marijuana to patients who qualify.

But there are some indications that lawmakers could reconvene for a special session. This past Wednesday, Senate President Joe Negron sent senators a memo asking for suggestions on how to come to a consensus.

"It was our mutual obligation to work together in good faith to find a principled middle ground on this important issue," Negron wrote. "As I said on Monday evening, I believe we should consider the best way to meet our constitutional obligation to implement Amendment 2."
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Jessica Lipscomb is the former news editor of Miami New Times.