Planning Commission OKs marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated Clay County

Full county commission to give final approval next week

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – More than a year after Florida voters approved Amendment 2, legalizing medical marijuana, it looks like Clay County will soon be allowing medical marijuana dispensaries to set up shop in unincorporated parts of the county, such as Middleburg or Fleming Island.

Shortly after Amendment 2 passed and local governments were left scrambling on how to regulate the sale of marijuana, Clay County instituted a one-year moratorium.

But on Tuesday night, Clay County's planning commission voted 3-2 in favor of dispensaries opening up shop in the unincorporated parts of the county.

The vote has locals split.

"I don't believe in marijuana in the first place," said Jean Manning, who opposes zoning for dispensaries. "I don't think it's good. It would be used in too many different ways."

"I think it needs to be in compliance with state law and federal. They need to be on the same page," said Joshua Ray, who supports zoning for dispensaries.

Supporters feel that Clay County shouldn’t drag its feet on medical marijuana. But some critics oppose the move. 

Mohammad Haque, an immigrant from Bangladesh who’s lived in Clay County for 14 years, said he does not support zoning for dispensaries.

"It's bad for me, bad for the county," Haque said. "I'm a physician -- not licensed here but from my country. I know what marijuana does."

Gavin Rollins, chairman of the Clay County Board of Commissioners, said the county is strictly looking at the issue from a zoning perspective, and it's possible the full commission could vote against the planning commission’s recommendation, but there would still be medical marijuana options for locals.

"No one is saying that we want to deny access for those who have medical needs," Rollins said. "You can currently get deliveries. And there are currently dispensaries in Gainesville and Jacksonville that can serve the Clay County community. And then Orange Park is allowing it now too." 

Keep in mind, this only applies to unincorporated Clay County. As Rollins mentioned, Orange Park, which has its own government, already allows dispensaries.

The full county commission will give final approval at its meeting Tuesday night. The issue will be discussed at 5 p.m.

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