North Miami medical marijuana dispensaries not up for debate

Photo by Aphiwat Chuangchoem

 

North Miami residents have mixed feelings about medical marijuana dispensaries coming into the city, but most council members say that the city cannot and should not do anything about it.

The North Miami City Council voted 3 to 1 on April 23 to permit medical marijuana dispensaries. Council member Alix Desulme was not present at the time of the vote.

Debbi Love, the city planner, said the ordinance will comply with Florida law, which states that medical marijuana dispensaries are to be treated like pharmacies.

Despite this, medical marijuana remains controversial.

“My main concern is that North Miami isn’t going to look ideal,” said resident Nicolas Cea.

Others are worried about the dispensary locations.

During the city council meeting, resident Jim Garrett, asked if the city is going to limit where dispensaries are going. His concern is with having the shops located in front of schools or near major highways, or next to a fast food restaurant where clients can satisfy their “munchies.”

“People want to legislate morality,” Councilman Scott Galvin said in an interview after the vote. “I don’t smoke marijuana. I don’t have access [to it], but I think emotions should be put aside.”

During the meeting, Councilwoman Carol Keys expressed her concern for having dispensaries situated one after the other.

But Galvin said that the city cannot limit dispensary locations.

“You can’t do that to a business,” said Galvin. “If you have a shoe store and another one wants to open right in front, we can’t stop it.”

City Attorney Jeff P.H. Cazeau said that something needs to be done, regardless of the concerns.

“The state law says you have to treat pharmacies like you treat dispensaries and right now this city does not,” said Cazeau. “We are trying to rectify an issue that we’re in violation of state law right now.”

Galvin agreed.

“First off, it’s legal,” said Galvin. “It’s a legal business in Florida; We can’t stop them from opening … You might not like strip clubs, but they are legal.”

There is talk of some shops considering adding a drive-thru.

During the meeting, Mayor Smith Joseph, who is also a medical doctor, said it is not easy to give out a recommendation for medical marijuana. He explained that doctors would need to attend seminars of up to 40 hours in order to write one.

Ian Bacheikov, a resident of North Miami and an attorney who specializes in cannabis law, agreed and said that one needs more than just a prescription.

“You do need not only a prescription from a doctor but a patient card … to get on a registry with the state,” said Bacheikov.

Bacheikov added that if dispensaries do not open, the residents that need the product will go to another city with a dispensary.

“That city is going to be the city that gets their tax revenues,” he said. “That’s the city that’s going to be paying less to the police budgets because they’re going to have less people on the streets selling it.”

In the meeting, Joseph said that it would be unethical and unlawful to not allow dispensaries to operate.

“How can you not offer them a technology, or something that can help them. That would be medical malpractice,” said Joseph. “We just have to control it, but we can’t stop it.”

 

Francesca Romana Bozza Aureli is a journalism student at Florida International University. She plans to pursue a law degree after completing her studies.