NEW: Vote was close, but Wellington OKs medical marijuana dispensaries

Wellington has joined Boynton Beach, Lake Worth and unincorporated parts of Palm Beach County as communities that will allow medical marijuana dispensaries.

The ordinance passed on a 3-2 vote by Wellington’s council on Monday night — with Mayor Anne Gerwig and Councilman Michael Drahos dissenting — that changes the village’s pharmacy zoning to include medical marijuana dispensaries under the following rules:

  • Dispensaries and pharmacies need to be a minimum of 10,000 square feet.
  • They would not be allowed within 1,000 feet of a primary or secondary school.
  • One pharmacy or dispensary would be allowed per shopping center, with an exception for pharmacies in grocery stores.

WELLINGTON READERS: Sign up for The Post’s weekly newsletter for Wellington news

Exceptions would be made for pharmacies or dispensaries, either freestanding or in shopping centers, with frontage along State Road 7. Compounding pharmacies and wholesale distributors who do not directly work with the public also are exempt.

Florida law requires local governments to either ban dispensaries altogether or to allow them under the same rules as pharmacies.

The new zoning rules effectively force pharmacies or medical marijuana dispensaries that want to open in the village to build along State Road 7, village officials said.

Gerwig argued the swaths of unincorporated land along State Road 7 would not prevent dispensaries from opening there.

“The problem is this is a Schedule I drug,” she said. “It is illegal federally.”

Marijuana’s status as a Schedule I drug also was noted by Drahos, who said the cash-only nature of the dispensary business concerns him. He added that while he voted with the majority of Wellington residents — more than 70 percent — in support of Amendment 2 in November 2016 to legalize medical marijuana, he would not vote in support of allowing dispensaries in Wellington.

“I can’t take the risk of that type of business coming into Wellington,” Drahos said.

Councilman Michael Napoleone said the village has a duty to make medical marijuana accessible to the residents who need it.

“People need to understand that we’re not talking about recreational pot shops,” he said.

Wellington is the first municipality to change its pharmacy zoning to allow medical marijuana dispensaries, Vice Mayor John McGovern said.

“And that’s because Wellington is in a very unique position where we are essentially at commercial and residential build-out and as such we can rezone pharmacies in a way that confines future pharmacies and medical marijuana dispensaries to a place where they are best suited, on 441, in what is being built to be or coming to be the health services corridor,” McGovern said.

But Gerwig countered that there are other municipalities in Palm Beach County that are closer to build-out than Wellington, but still have banned dispensaries.

“I’m not fearful. I’m not doing this out of fear,” Gerwig said. “I am being cautious.”

Of the seven public comments made during the hearing, five were in support of the measure.

“We should be forging therapeutic partnerships with these dispensaries, not forcing them to the outskirts of town,” said Dr. Vincent Apicella, whose Premier Family Health practice is in the Wellington Reserve along State Road 7.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

2 kids dressed as 'tall man' unable to gain admission to 'Black Panther'
2 kids dressed as 'tall man' unable to gain admission to 'Black Panther'

Two kids decided they wanted to go to the new Marvel superhero film “Black Panther,” but they didn’t want to pay for two movie tickets. So, they tried to dupe the movie theater’s manager. The duo went to the theater disguised as one “tall man” under a trench coat, but unsurprisingly, their plan didn’t work...
No charge: JetBlue offers to fly Parkland victims' families to South Florida
No charge: JetBlue offers to fly Parkland victims' families to South Florida

JetBlue is offering to fly families of victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High shooting free to the South Florida area. The company announced that it would fly families free via its Family Assistance Center, and would also provide access to free ground transportation with Lyft. Last Wednesday, 17 people were killed Wednesday by a 19-year-old...
NEW: West Palm train connector to cut across Storm of 1928 mass grave
NEW: West Palm train connector to cut across Storm of 1928 mass grave

It’s a quiet stretch of lawn that belies the intensity of events that made it that way. It’s hard to put yourself there emotionally, 90 years later. But if it helps to relate, imagine how you felt this week with news of the 17 slaughtered without warning in Parkland. Then imagine 674 sisters, brothers, grandparents, toddlers, killed...
Stoneman Douglas High School will reopen Feb. 22 to staff
Stoneman Douglas High School will reopen Feb. 22 to staff

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 people were killed Wednesday by a gunman, will reopen Thursday, according to a statement from Broward County Public Schools. Only staff members will be allowed back on the sprawling campus in northwest Broward County. There is no mention in the statement when students will be permitted to return...
Pennsylvania teen rescued from wind caves
Pennsylvania teen rescued from wind caves

A Pennsylvania teen who was trapped inside wind caves in Lancaster County was rescued after eight hours, WHTM reported Sunday. Dispatchers said the 15-year-old boy, who was with a group of friends and adults, became trapped about 250 feet into the wind caves in Martic Township around 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Lancaster Online reported. Tony...
More Stories