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Fort Lauderdale Enforces Law Limiting Medical Marijuana Clinics, Even Though The State Says It Can't

medical marijuana
Flick Creative Commons via Mark
A Florida law prohibits cities from limiting the number of dispensaries. Fort Lauderdale is denying three dispensaries from setting up shop in its Northeast district.

Fort Lauderdale officials decided this week to uphold a city ordinance that limits the number of medical marijuana dispensaries allowed to open in the city - despite a state law that says it does not have that power.

Florida voters overwhelmingly approved medical marijuana in 2016. Currently, the four dispensaries that are trying to set up shop in Ft. Lauderdale have applied to open in the same part of the city, the Northeast political district.

Fort Lauderdale says that's a problem, because its law prohibits more than one dispensary in each of its four districts. City officials plan to reject three of the dispensaries that applied. 

Since it has not been challenged in court yet, the state has not gotten involved. 

For now, patients who have been ordering their cannabis by mail will have to continue to do so. 

"This is just making it more difficult, even though it's what voters wanted,” Brittany Wallman, who has been covering the issue for the Sun Sentinel, told WLRN. 

Read More: State Seeks To Uphold Ban On Smoking Medical Marijuana

Florida law states cities must treat medical marijuana dispensaries like any other pharmacy - which are not limited to a certain number.

The city has other regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries, including that buildings must be at least 1,500 feet away from a park or school.

Wallman said some neighborhoods still have hesitations about where dispensaries can be built, partially because of fear that property values could go down. 

"Because we don't really know what it's going to be like,” she said. “There's just that fear of the unknown and something that's still an illegal drug under the gederal government's eye."

City officials acknowledged that a dispensary wishing to challenge its law can do so in court. 

“It’s kind of an interesting approach to take, because you’re publicly disclosing that you think this ordinance would not hold legal muster, but you’re going to enforce it and put the applicants through the cost and the time of having to challenge it in a court,” Wallman said.

Caitie Muñoz, formerly Switalski, produces WLRN's midday public affairs program, Sundial weekdays at 1 and 8 p.m. Prior to transitioning to production, Caitie covered news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News for four years.