The city of Dunedin in Pinellas County may be best known for its beaches like Honeymoon Island State Park, but its downtown is becoming increasingly popular. City leaders have worked very hard to develop it into a thriving commercial area, but they’re very protective over who establishes business.
Lifelong resident Nathalie Restrepo is glad city leaders are picky with who they allow to set up shop.
"That's why we come here, everything is local and small businesses," she said.
But when it comes to the idea of a medical marijuana dispensary opening downtown, she's for it.
“My boyfriend has Ulcerative Colitis and it's done wonders for him.”
While many support medical marijuana, according to the Tampa Bay Times, city commissioners are considering a new option to keep dispensaries from opening in their downtown district, and that’s banning pharmacies all together.
Under Florida state law, after medical marijuana was made legal in 2016, the zoning rules for medical marijuana dispensaries are the same rules that apply to pharmacies.
Dunedin is one of several Tampa Bay area cities that enacted a moratorium to ban dispensaries, which has been in place for the past 17 months.
With legalizing marijuana being a hot debate nationwide, the city of Dunedin is considering taking precautionary measures to ban all pharmacies in the city’s downtown and Causeway areas in case Floridians vote to legalize recreational marijuana in November.
“The idea is to prevent dispensaries from taking root in the city’s main economic centers in case the state later legalizes recreational marijuana,” Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski told The Times.
Residents we spoke to like that downtown Dunedin is nothing but local shops. They admire the city preserving it from big box stores or chains, but most people say they wouldn’t mind a medical marijuana dispensary.
“If it helps people get medicine they need, why not?” said Restrepo.
A business owner who didn’t want to tell us her name said there’s no space for a dispensary in the downtown area.
“There’s too much traffic and no parking. No one would be able to get to it.”
City leaders told the Times they’re not against medical marijuana, they don’t want to be governed by the state when it comes to that issue.
Resident Mike Blue says he just wants to know “what’s going on, is there a ban, isn’t there a ban, are they for it, are they against it, and that’s a big question we all have. ... I’m for it. I don’t think there should be any limitation helping people medically.”
Another resident, Mark Lulek, says, "I’m indifferent. If they’re not in downtown Dunedin, they’ll be some place in hand.”
Some say there's no space for a dispensary downtown because of traffic and limited parking. Blue rejects that argument.
"To see the elderly and people who might be medically comprised to be able to walk to get their medicine I think is just an added benefit to be living down here.”
We’re told no pharmacy or dispensary has even petitioned for space in the Dunedin’s downtown.
The commission will vote Thursday whether to extend the moratorium through Nov. 30.
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