The Melbourne City Council plans to extend its 180-day moratorium on low-THC cannabis dispensaries for another year, fearing that local regulations could run afoul of federal drug laws.
In addition, council members rejected new zoning regulations governing cultivation, processing and dispensing of “Charlotte’s Web” within city limits. The drug is administered as an oil or capsule to registered cancer patients and seizure sufferers.
“This is a very confusing area of the law that’s going on right now. And you can see it play out in California. To the extent that local municipalities have tried to regulate, they have been told in courts of law that they have overstepped their boundary,” City Attorney Alison Dawley told council members.
Both of last week’s medical marijuana votes — one on zoning regulations, the other on the moratorium — were 6-1. Mike Nowlin cast both no votes.
Next, City Hall staffers will draft an ordinance extending the low-THC cannabis moratorium. This ordinance will require two future votes to enact.
Under the rejected regulations, dispensaries would have been forbidden within 250 feet from homes, 500 feet from parks and 750 feet from schools. Other rules would have been enacted for security plans, business hours and other operational details.
Councilwoman Molly Tasker, a retired CIA lawyer, expressed “grave concerns” that Melbourne’s proposed zoning rules violated federal law because marijuana remains listed as an illegal Schedule I drug.
Though Tasker said her gut reaction was to support medical marijuana, she proposed the moratorium extension and called for City Council to conduct “a thoughtful workshop” on the topic.
Florida’s Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014 took effect in June. Tasker said federal lawmakers are dodging the issue, adding pressure to local governments.
“The federal legislators and executive branch could solve this whole issue by simply removing medical marijuana, or low-THC marijuana, from the Schedule I list,” she said.
Dawley described Florida’s low-THC cannabis scene as “a moving target.”
“Every couple of weeks, we hear something different either from the feds or from the state — and we’re really not sure how this is evolving,” she said.
In October, a Quinnipiac University poll showed 87 percent of Florida voters support legalization of medical marijuana.