Miami Beach Considers Six-Month Medical Marijuana Ban

If the latest crop of polls is correct, medical marijuana will be legally available to sick people in Florida in just four days. As of last week, close to 80 percent of Floridians support Amendment 2, which would legalize weed statewide for medical purposes, such as helping cancer or Alzheimer's patients. Sixty percent of the electorate needs to approve the measure for it to pass.

But even assuming it passes, many Florida residents might need to travel pretty far to get their hands on medicinal cannabis. That's because multiple cities are already gearing up to pass six-month "moratoriums" on medical marijuana — including Miami Beach.

Next Wednesday, November 9, the city commission will debate an ordinance imposing a six-month zoning ban on medical-cannabis dispensaries, grow houses, delivery services, and any other medical-weed-related businesses. According to city documents, the county will use that added free time to figure out whether new weed-related zoning laws need to be adopted, or if dispensaries should be banned from certain parts of town.

If the bill passes, the city will not accept applications for any new marijuana-related businesses until at least April. After the six-month period is up, it's likely the city will ban dispensaries from tourist-heavy locations such as Ocean Drive.

The city "finds it is in the best interest of the citizens of the City to minimize and control the adverse effects of dispensing facilities by adopting appropriate land development and licensing regulations," the ordinance says.

Due to "the historical prohibition of cannabis," the ordinance says, the city has no current zoning laws or regulations related to weed on its books at all. The 180-day ban would give the city time to enact laws related to "traffic, congestion, surrounding property values, demand for City services including inspections and increase police monitoring, and other aspects of the operation of dispensing facilities impacting the general welfare of the community."

The bill is highly likely to pass: The ordinance sailed through the Miami Beach Commission on its first reading in October. Commissioner Ricky Arriola is sponsoring the temporary ban — city documents say the idea stemmed from his ten-point plan to revamp Ocean Drive, which the city has been discussing for most of 2016.

For Miami Beach residents, the law will mean that people in dire need of medical marijuana must either travel to the mainland to get their hands on medication or pay someone to deliver the drugs into the city.

If the law passes, Miami Beach will join areas such as Clay County, near Gainesville, and Manatee County, which are both considering moratoriums. Sarasota has already passed a six-month ban.

"It is anticipated the amendment will pass," Sarasota's assistant city attorney, John Shamsey, told that city's commission last month, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. He added, "We’re not looking to outlaw legal medical marijuana use in any way."

Violators of Miami Beach's law would be subject to a $500 fine.

Here's the proposed ordinance:

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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.