OLDSMAR – Like many communities in the Tampa Bay area and all over the Sunshine State, Oldsmar officials were forced to grapple with allowing the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries in their town following the passage of Amendment 2 last November.
In January, the Oldsmar City Council enacted a temporary moratorium on such establishments while local and state officials sorted out the legal technicalities of the new legislation.
During a public workshop on the topic in late October, the council members learned the details of additional legislation state lawmakers passed in July, limiting them to one of three options regarding dispensaries: do nothing, treat them as pharmacies, or ban them outright.
After a quick discussion, the five council members agreed to ban the dispensaries, citing nearby facilities in Clearwater and Hillsborough County as well as the fact that the city has no strict regulations for pharmacies currently on the books, meaning some are allowed near school and residential districts.
The decision was upheld during a pair of subsequent public hearings.
During the second and final reading on Nov. 20, Mayor Doug Bevis addressed the social media backlash officials had received in the wake of the decision.
“I just want to say this, as typical I get blasted sometimes on Facebook for some of the things that happen and I definitely defended the city’s stance on this,” he said. “Some of the comments were, ‘you need to be more progressive, you need to think of the people that need them’ and I quickly responded that we can undo this, but we can’t enact it. If we don’t pass something now, we can’t stick the genie back in the bottle. So, this does allow us to control it right now until we can either change our pharmaceutical regulations or ordinances or do something different.”
Bevis added he felt the ban “was a good thing for the City of Oldsmar,” which was supported by his fellow local lawmakers.
“The other thing of course was the proximity of existing facilities,” Council member Eric Seidel added, referring to four facilities in Clearwater and St. Pete and another one just over the county line in Hillsborough.
Seidel did note that “an extremely high percentage” of Oldsmar voters voted in favor of Amendment 2, so “to not pay attention to that would be foolish.”
Despite the public’s vote and some social media backlash, the council approved the ban, 5-0.
Afterwards, Bevis elaborated on the decision.
“I think there’s adequate accessibility to the ones in Tampa and Clearwater, and I don’t know that the demand is there from a patient standpoint in Oldsmar,” he said, adding, “If we try to regulate pharmacies, that’s a big task, so I’d rather do it this way.”
The mayor also pointed out the decision doesn’t mean the city is against medical marijuana.
“I’m all in favor of it for people who need it,” he said.
“I just think we should do it at our own pace.”