Florida House advances more restrictive dispensary, vape shop proximity rules

With hopes high for an adult-use vote this fall, the Florida Legislature advanced a bill to limit where new dispensaries can set up shop.

House Bill 1053, which unanimously cleared committee on Thursday, proposes to increase the minimum distance required between cannabis cultivation, processing, and dispensary centers from the existing 500 feet to 1,500 feet, while also extending the buffer zone from K-12 schools to daycare centers, churches, and post-secondary educational institutions.

Sources in the state told Green Market Report that the implications of such a modification are far-reaching, as it imposes far stricter zoning regulations than those currently in place. The rules could derail plans for numerous applicants set to launch operations in the state this July.

More specifically, the expansion of proximity rules would severely impact site selection for new applicants and even newer license holders who are in the process of expanding their retail presence, especially in densely populated areas.

“It’s going to be hard pressed, especially in populated areas, to find locations,” said Matthew Ginder, a partner in the cannabis law practice group at Greenspoon Marder.

According to Sally Peebles, a Jacksonville-based attorney with Vicente, the bill would particularly affect the slew of new licensees looking to open shop this July.

“It’s pretty draconian,” she said. “And it slips in religious institutions. It’s doing what we saw in many of the early states.”

Other new markets, such as Mississippi, have been affected by similar rules that limit real estate prospects.

Peebles pointed out the particular challenges posed by the inclusion of postsecondary institutions in the proximity rules. The definition of postsecondary can be broad and has been a source of complications for operators in Colorado, though she admitted that Florida doesn’t have the same issues where “everyone kind of wanted to pump the brakes a little bit.”

Peebles said that even facilities hosting infrequent “once-a-month” IT classes could fall under this category.

“Considering the fact that college students are adults and have medical marijuana cards accordingly, I don’t really see the issue, particularly for colleges,” Daniel Sparks, founder of Florida-based Sparks Consulting, said. “There’s colleges all over the state, so that would amount to more restrictions.”

The bill would also strip local authorities of the power to grant variances, which has traditionally allowed some flexibility in zoning.

For the bill to become law, it not only has to get through the House, but also needs a similar bill to pass in the Senate, which does not currently exist. That makes some think the measure might not survive.

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