NewsHillsborough County


Tampa city leaders, neighbors raise concerns over medical marijuana facility

Posted at 5:41 PM, Sep 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-20 00:48:47-04

TAMPA, Fla.— Council members and community members in an east Tampa neighborhood are raising concerns over a medical marijuana facility.

Last month, the city zoning supervisor issued a formal decision to Trulieve Incorporated regarding a medical marijuana processing and distribution facility. It confirmed the property on East Henry Avenue could be developed, falling under the property’s zoning as "industrial general."

“I don’t think this is the most thoughtful location for this type of facility,” said Susan Morgan, a spokesperson for Gracepoint.

The mental health and substance abuse treatment provider is located on the same street.

“On this same city block we have over 21 acres of treatment facilities, so this literally is right smack in the middle,” Morgan said. “We also have two apartment complexes. One of those apartment complexes has over 300 families.”

Councilmen Orlando Gudes and Guido Maniscalco requested city staff provide a report on the marijuana processing facility, where facilities are being placed and the possibility of creating an ordinance to prevent these types of facilities.

“My concern is the excess traffic on that street, children being exposed, people who have drug and alcohol addictions being exposed. Crime rising again,” Gudes said.

Like others at Thursday’s city council meeting, Gudes concern wasn’t about medical marijuana but the location.

“We just care about the location where it’s at and the possible dangers it can bring to that community,” he said.

Andrea Zelman, the deputy city attorney, submitted a report. It explains the ability of local governments to regulate facilities that cultivate, process and dispense medical marijuana is limited by amendments made by the state legislature. In addition, the regulation of marijuana by medical marijuana treatment centers is preempted to the state.

“We need to tell the legislators step aside let us do our job here locally, to me it’s a money making scheme now. African Americans have gone to jail over marijuana for many, many years,” Gudes said. “I know marijuana is a catchall to save to help folks that have medical issues, to me I have no problem with that.”

According to the report, Tampa City Council voted to add medical marijuana processing and dispensing facilities to the city’s zoning cone and adopt regulations as allowed by state law in 2017.

Zelman wrote, “Given that the City of Tampa has allowed and regulated the location of medical marijuana dispensing facilities since at least 2017, we do not recommend that the City Council consider any action that would attempt to place a ban on them now,” citing potential legal issues.

“So my concern is that it can happen and there’s nothing we can do about it. I would like to see the city move forward with some solutions,” said Ellen Snelling, the board chair for the Hillsborough County Anti-Drug Alliance.

The alliance is also located on East Henry.

“So how, if we can’t do anything about this one, then how can we prevent this from happening again? Because there’s plenty of other neighborhoods around Tampa that are similar that these places could just move right in," Snelling said.

Councilman Gudes planned to make a motion to ask city staff to come back again on the issue.

A response from Trulieve Incorporated was not received by publication.