NEW: Here’s how Wellington could handle medical pot dispensaries

Updated Oct 27, 2017
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Wellington officials are considering a rule change that would allow medical marijuana dispensaries in the village if they meet the same requirements pharmacies face.

To do that, the village council would need to pass tighter restrictions on pharmacies, something council members discussed at an agenda review workshop Oct. 23.

RELATED: Lake Worth to be home to Palm Beach County’s first pot dispensaries

State law mandates county or municipal governments can’t regulate medical marijuana dispensaries any differently than pharmacies.

The changes would limit pharmacies and medical marijuana dispensaries to be no closer than 1,000 feet to a primary or secondary school. It also would require them to be at least 10,000 square feet, and more than one pharmacy or dispensary per commercial development — such as a shopping center or mall — would not be allowed. That would not apply to pharmacies that operate within grocery stores.

READ: Why Royal Palm Beach banned medical marijuana dispensaries

Individual pharmacies and medical pot dispensaries along State Road 7 or with frontage to that road would not have to comply with the size and number restrictions.

Village attorney Laurie Cohen said while a new rule would have the potential to make some pharmacies noncompliant, it wouldn’t affect them unless they expand. She expects the council to have its first reading of the proposed ordinance Nov. 14.

The village council discussed its options Monday, with council members largely supporting changing pharmacy regulations over a moratorium or ban on medical marijuana facilities.

“Our residents voted overwhelmingly to have this,” council Michael Napoleone said, referring to the 72 percent of Wellington voters who in November cast their ballots in favor of legalizing medical marijuana in Florida. “We should make it available.”

RELATED: Voters OK’d medical marijuana — but cities aren’t welcoming pot shops

The dissenting voice was Mayor Anne Gerwig, who said in supporting a ban she feels the state law passed in the previous legislative session has tied the village’s hands when it comes to defining where medical marijuana dispensaries can open in Wellington.

“I understand that people want this product, and I don’t think that us banning locations in Wellington is preventing them from getting it,” Gerwig said. “I don’t think that it makes it harder for a person who needs treatment to have it. I think they do have access to it through a delivery method that doesn’t make me wonder what it would do to a neighborhood.”

When it comes to medical marijuana dispensaries, Palm Beach County municipalities are split: While most have banned the facilities outright, only Lake Worth, Boynton Beach and the unincorporated parts of the county have opened their arms.