Miami Beach's moratorium on medical marijuana is officially coming to an end, but that doesn't mean it'll be a whole lot easier to open a dispensary in the city. A little more than a week after state legislators gave up on passing rules for medical marijuana, city commissioners are set to consider regulations of their own — and they're among the strictest rules debated anywhere in the state.
The city's proposed ordinances, up for a first reading today, are even tighter than the onerous regulations debated in Tally. Commissioners will consider banning anyone under 21, requiring dispensaries to keep visitor logs and extensive surveillance cameras, and even imposing "odor maintenance plans" on the three dispensaries the city plans to allow in designated zones.
"In this initial stage, as we're learning, it's a very, very disciplined sort of ordinance," says Commissioner John Elizabeth Aleman, who sponsored the proposal. She says the city wants to set its own rules before the state preempts it. "I think if we get more experienced — and demand is going to increase over time — I'm sure it will change."
For now, city officials are set to permit one dispensary each in South Beach, Mid-Beach, and North Beach. Under the drafted land-use and business tax receipt ordinances, dispensaries would have to comply with strict monitoring, including responding to emails or phone calls from city officials within 24 hours of being contacted and submitting to routine and sometimes random inspections.
Each person who entered the area where the medical marijuana was sold would be added into a log that also documented their entrance and exit time and purpose for visiting. At all times while inside the facility, they would have to be escorted by an owner or manager, and either an owner or manager would need to be on site constantly.
Surveillance cameras would be required everywhere on the premises besides the bathrooms, and even though patients would be banned from smoking or otherwise using the medical marijuana on site, the companies would even be required to prevent any smells from escaping the building.
The medical marijuana would need to be packaged in "plain, opaque, tamper-proof, and child-proof containers without depictions of the product, cartoons, or images other than the logo of the company." Depictions of marijuana could not be visible from public rights of way.
Additionally, the city would heavily vet those looking to open a dispensary by running background checks and requiring a minimum account balance and a security plan, among other things.
"Because it's so new and there are so many different ways that it could go wrong, we wanted to make sure that the companies that are doing it first of all have the capacity to manage such a complex operation and have some skin in the game to make sure they do things the proper way," Aleman says.
On one rule in the proposal, though, the city might be willing to budge: After a New Times reporter pointed out limiting dispensaries to customers 21 and older would force patients between the ages of 18 and 20 to leave the Beach to fill their prescriptions, Aleman said she'd have to take another look at it. Later Tuesday, she said she planned to make a revision during today's meeting to change the rule to 18 and older.
"Certainly all adults prescribed a medicine by a doctor should have access to that medicine," she said.