Miami Beach sets rules for medical marijuana dispensaries

New rule allows for up to four areas in city for dispensaries, three licenses expected to be issued

Miami Beach
Miami Beach

The Miami Beach commission approved two ordinances on Wednesday that will regulate where medical marijuana will be sold and set requirements for those seeking a license to open a dispensary.

The ordinances adopted on first reading will allow up to four areas in the city to house medical marijuana dispensaries: the area around Alton Road and Fifth Street, the immediate vicinity near Mount Sinai Medical Center, a separate location east of Sheridan Avenue along 41st Street, as well as a location south of 71st Street in North Beach.

It’s not clear if dispensaries will open in all of those locations. Commissioners said Mount Sinai hospital has said it has no intention of opening a dispensary on its grounds at the present time, and there are further restrictions against opening dispensaries near schools, which could restrict dispensaries near 41st Street. Both ordinances were approved on a 6-1 vote with commissioner Joy Malakoff voting no.

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Applicants seeking a license to sell medical marijuana in Miami Beach will have to provide the city with a security plan and undergo stringent background checks. Applicants will have 90 days to apply, and a double blind lottery system proposed by commissioner John Elizabeth Alemán will be used to select the eventual licensee to avoid any involvement by city staff or boards in the process. City officials say they expect three licenses to eventually be issued.

The commissioners adopted an amendment sponsored by commissioner Michael Greico to prohibit any dispensaries operating in the South-of-Fifth neighborhood. Commissioners also rejected a measure sponsored by Malakoff to raise the legal age for obtaining medical marijuana from 18 to 21.

Dispensaries will also be prohibited from growing marijuana on their premises and they will be limited to 7,500 square feet. They will also have face stringent parking requirements. All dispensaries will be required to offer parking within 500 feet and provide one parking space per 250 square feet — an issue that led to objections from dispensary lobbyists during the commission meeting.

In November, 71 percent of Florida voters approved amendment 2 which legalized medical marijuana, but the state legislature has so far balked at passing legislation implementing the amendment. A special session of the legislature is currently meeting to address the issue, and legislators are expected to sign off on a measure that will approve 10 designated firms as licensees to grow and distribute medical marijuana.