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DELRAY BEACH — After banning medical marijuana dispensaries for nearly six years, Delray Beach could soon change its stance on the issue.
Delray Beach is considering a proposal that would allow dispensaries within city limits, which would make them the latest in a growing number of South Florida communities to do so. Boca Raton, Boynton Beach and West Palm Beach are among the Palm Beach County cities that now allow dispensaries.
In 2016, Florida voters approved the use of medical marijuana for medical conditions including epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis and others. Seventy-one percent of voters across the state approved the measure, including 71% of Delray Beach voters.
But one month prior to vote, Delray Beach passed a temporary moratorium prohibiting medical marijuana dispensaries. In 2017, the city passed a permanent prohibition and hasn’t revisited the subject until now.
The proposal is being brought forth by Rosen Associates, a development company seeking to open a dispensary.
While the statewide ordinance passed with overwhelming support in 2016, Schiller believes the opioid crisis in 2017 and the uncertainty regarding the future of medical marijuana treatment centers made the commission reticent to take action.
“A number of cities didn’t do anything with the medical marijuana ordinance [at the time],” Schiller said. “They wanted to see how the industry would grow and mature and how it would play out.
“In Delray, nobody had brought it up. I think now, fast forward to 2022, having the medical marijuana treatment centers being open and operating throughout the county and state gives people a sense of comfort.”
In order for patients to be able to buy medical marijuana from a dispensary, they first need a card from the state indicating that they qualify for treatment under state law.
Outside city limits, there are three facilities west of Delray Beach near Atlantic Avenue and Jog Road.
Boynton Beach, which approved dispensaries in 2017, has five near Woolbright Road and Boynton Beach Boulevard.
Boca Raton passed an ordinance in 2020 allowing dispensaries, but none have opened yet in the city.
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If Delray Beach approves the ordinance, dispensaries would have a minimum requirement of 3,500 square feet, which Schiller says would “provides a certain kind of assurance that it’s going to be a nicely run operation” and that the applicant is “well-financed and committed to maintaining the property.”
Dispensaries would not be able to open within at least 500 feet of a school and within 4,000 feet of another dispensary in order to avoid clustering.
Commissioner Ryan Bolyston supported moving the motion forward.
“I’ve learned a lot about this industry and I think like our neighboring cities, we should pass an ordinance,” Boylston said. “I just would want to make sure it’s strict if not stricter to ensure we can have a few facilities but not an entirely thriving-type of industry in Delray.”
City commissioners are expected to vote on the issue later this year.