by Jeremy Morrison
In late August, the Escambia County Commission requested that county staff figure out how best to accommodate low-THC, or non-euphoric medical marijuana into existing code and report back in 30 days. Two months later, the county’s planning board is about to look over some recommendations. If all goes well, the commissioners will see something in December — a month after Florida voters may have chosen to legalize medical marijuana on a considerably larger scale and beyond the non-euphoric.
On Nov. 1 the Escambia County Planning Board will consider some revisions to the Land Development Code which seek to clarify where in the county medical marijuana ventures can conduct business. In the draft revisions staff has clarified that the changes apply to the “compassionate use of low-THC and medical cannabis,” and defined the conditions under which related business operations would be allowed.
In the agricultural districts of Escambia County, medical marijuana dispensing facilities would be allowed “where ancillary to cultivation or processing.” Same goes for rural mixed-use districts.
In both low and high-density mixed use districts marijuana-related retail activity would be held to “small scale,” 6000 square feet-or-less, operations. The establishments wouldn’t be allowed near places selling liquor or gas or motor vehicles.
In the revisions to the code, the low-THC dispensaries are also allowed in commercial and industrial districts. As well as in residential and retails districts. And in Perdido Key and on Pensacola Beach.
According to Horace Jones, Escambia’s director of development services, the planning board should finish up with its review of the proposed revisions in time for the commissioners to hold the first of two public hearings on the issue by Dec. 8.
These requested accommodations for non-euphoric medical marijuana — which is currently legal for a limited number of patients in Florida — come after a conversation this summer about possibly imposing a year-long moratorium on the sale of medical marijuana within Escambia. The proposed purpose of the moratorium was to give county staff adequate time to incorporate the newly legal substance into the land development code.
Ultimately, and after an emotional show of community interest in the subject, commissioners decided to scrap the moratorium and move forward with accommodating the currently legal form of medical marijuana into existing code.
In November, Florida voters will consider a constitutional amendment which would legalize more traditional — higher THC, euphoric — medical marijuana. The revisions being considered in Escambia County specifically address the low-THC variety. Commissioners have indicated they’ll deal with any further progression on the medical marijuana front after the results of the November election and related ballot initiative have played out.
For more on medical marijuana in Escambia County, read “Hearing Evolves in Medical Marijuana Community Forum” and “Escambia Scraps Medical Marijuana Moratorium.”