Residents want medical marijuana dispensaries to blend in

St. Johns County Commission approved medical marijuana moratorium in March

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – The St. Johns County Planning Department has started moving forward with the idea of medical marijuana dispensaries being placed throughout the county.

A public meeting held Thursday  comes less than a month after the St. Johns County Commission approved a 12-month moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries.

The workshop, which was held at the St. Johns County Permit Center, focused on zoning and permitting regulations for retail stores for medical marijuana treatment centers in St. Johns County.

RELATED: St. Johns County approves medical marijuana moratorium

County officials asked for feedback from residents as they begin to create rules for the future medical marijuana treatment centers. 

"We want to know what they feel is appropriate for our area, for our special community, before we start drafting regulations," said Assistant County Attorney Paolo Soria. 

The meeting's agenda highlighted hours of operation, loitering, parking and security. But residents had their own agenda, which dealt heavily on how the businesses would look and where they would and would not like to see medical marijuana treatment centers pop up throughout the county. 

"So what we want to know is how are we going to regulate these? Where are they allowed? What zoning district? Is it going to be next to a Publix? In the back of an industrial center? That kind of thing," Soria said.

Soria said the county has been eyeballing bills that have distance requirements, keeping the dispensaries 1,000 feet away from churches and schools. But it was an item on the agenda that many seemed indifferent about. Instead, more people seemed to be concerned with the shops looking holistic and blending in. 

"It can't be a head shop. It's not. This is medical. This is just like going to your pharmacy, CVS pharmacy, and getting either a pain pill, or anything. That's what it should be like," said resident Jan Miller. 

Currently, the existing framework allows only seven licenses to grow, process and sell or distribute the low THC marijuana to terminally ill patients. Patients can get their prescription delivered by qualified businesses. 

The county's next steps will be taking the input, drafting regulations and sending them to the Board of County Commissioners, which will go over them next month before going through the formal rule-making process.