Commission vote praised by medical marijuana advocates

Hillsborough commissioners made significant decisions Tuesday night.

It's called medical marijuana but many in the Hillsborough County Commission chambers Tuesday evening said their elected officials aren't giving the new treatment the same respect afforded to more established medicines.

"What are the zoning requirements for pharmacies and why isn't the same level of regulatory burden being observed for them?" Christopher Cano said to commissioners during the public comment section.

Commissioners approved land use restrictions that would force medical marijuana dispensaries to be at least 750 feet away from churches, parks, schools and day care centers, essentially forcing them into mostly industrial areas.

But it was the separate vote on licensing regulations many in attendance were most worried about. Commissioners were considering capping the number of dispensaries in the county to 13 and a having a point system to award those coveted spots.

The fear from Amendment 2 proponents was that such a rule would limit access and discourage the competition. that lowers the cost of the cannabis.

"We need more dispensaries. If that doesn't happen, I am going to continue to go to the black market," said Renee Petro, whose son is fighting a rare form of epilepsy.

But in a surprise vote, commissioners agreed to an amendment, 4-3, to scrap implementation of the unpopular provisions.

Supporters of medical marijuana say they were pleasantly shocked.

"For once, public comment mattered and the public's voice mattered," said Cano, executive director of Central Florida NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws).

Everything could still change, though, as state legislators start to write the regulations that will make up the rules for medical marijuana statewide.

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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