136 medical marijuana dispensaries could open in Central Florida

Posted at 6:07 PM, Jun 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-03 13:29:45-04

More medical marijuana dispensaries are coming to Pinellas County.

Pinellas County Commissioners recently decided not to extend a medical marijuana moratorium. Based on the county’s population and central location, the state could allow as many as 136 dispensaries to open in Central Florida, which includes Pinellas County, according to Renea Vincent in the county’s planning department. 

It makes Marvin Coleman, who works in a drug rehab center, uneasy.  “Where you have dispensaries door by door by door right by McDonalds where families frequent, that makes me uncomfortable.”

Trulieve already has plans to open 4 more dispensaries on 4th Street North in St Pete, Dunedin, Madeira Beach, and right across from Steven Tartaglia’s battery shop in Clearwater. 

“I’m opposed to it because I have a 5-year-old and an 18-year-old and we’re turning something that’s black and white in drug use into something that’s gray,” Tartaglia explained.

State leaders are only giving local counties two options: ban medical marijuana or treat dispensaries like pharmacies. 

The only difference: dispensaries can’t be within 500 feet of schools.

Florida’s 17,000 medical marijuana patients argue it’s a much needed alternative. 

Sheryrell Howe, a patient from largo explained, “It’s been on the earth for millions of years. It’s completely natural. Unlike prescription drugs, medical marijuana doesn’t make me feel like a zombie.”

State leaders expect the number of medical marijuana patients to swell to a quarter million within the next 3 years.

Patient Kasey Hill hopes medical marijuana will be easier to access. The mom of two lives in New Port Richey, an hour away from any dispensary, and travels every other week to pick up her prescription. “It’s a long trip to make. I wish they’d make it easier to get,” she explained.

The 136 dispensaries would be spread out over Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando, Citrus, Sumter, Polk, Orange, Osceola, Brevard, Saint Lucie, Indian River, Lake and Volusia Counties.