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Patients and dispensary owners urged the Boca Raton City Council on Tuesday to approve a proposed law allowing medical marijuana stores in the city.

The council will vote on Feb. 11 but listened to entreaties on Tuesday from marijuana advocates and business people who said the city needs its own dispensaries, instead of requiring ill residents to travel to surrounding municipalities.

Eric Sevell, who said he is a medical marijuana patient, said the city already allows related businesses, such as medical marijuana software and accessory companies. He said a rejection by the council would be unfair to residents who need their medicine, as well as a sign of snobbery, a way to “protect the brand” of an upscale lifestyle.

“It’s a thinly veiled way of saying if you don’t fit into a particular box, you don’t belong here,” Sevell said.

Florida voters in 2016 approved the use of medical marijuana for illnesses such as epilepsy, Crohn’s disease and multiple sclerosis. More than 400,000 people have qualified for the state registry based on their medical conditions, and almost 284,000 are active buyers of medical marijuana, according to state records.

Two people spoke on Tuesday against allowing the dispensaries. Resident Glenn Gromann warned the stores would open a channel for drug-dealing in the city.

“The drug industry is insidious and dangerous,” he said. “There’s no compelling need for (the dispensaries). Why would you create a problem that doesn’t exist?”

There are now more than 30 medical marijuana stores across the tri-county region, up from only five in August 2018.

Besides Boca Raton, several cities have instituted bans against the cash-only dispensaries. These include Delray Beach, Margate, Tamarac and Pembroke Pines.

In October 2014, the Boca Raton council unanimously passed Palm Beach County’s first municipal moratorium on medical marijuana centers. The vote came one week before a medical marijuana amendment was defeated.

But in 2016, a statewide vote was approved by 71 percent of voters, and 76 percent of Boca Raton residents voted in favor.

Still, Boca Raton city council members voted to maintain the city’s ban in 2017. The city’s staff has been consistent in its opposition to the businesses, saying state law limits the city’s ability to manage them once they are allowed.

“There are a number of dispensing facilities in nearby jurisdictions such as Deerfield Beach, Boynton Beach and in unincorporated Palm Beach County,” the staff wrote in a report for the council members. “Also, there continues to be a great deal of uncertainty with respect to medical marijuana legislation and case law.”

None of the council members said on Tuesday how they plan to vote on Feb. 11, although council member Andy Thomson said previously he would vote in favor.

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December 2020