By Greg Jackson, Esq.
Four years ago, when the conversation about medicinal marijuana in the State of Florida really picked up steam, I was staunchly opposed to even having a conversation about the legalization of weed for medical purposes or otherwise. As a person who has never partaken in the communal jester of “puff-puff-pass” my view of weed, herb, hemp, Mary Jane, or whatever name it was called back in the 90’s, was that it was a gateway drug; one that folks experimented with before moving on to the hard stuff.
However, as the conversation deepened in 2016 and some of my friends confided in me that they were “smokers,” my stance on the topic lightened a bit. One of the more compelling reasons for medicinal marijuana was shared with me by a close friend who suffers from chronic joint pain (no pun intended . . . well maybe a little). My friend told me that there are times when he can hardly move around due to pain, so he takes a “toke” every now-and-again. According to my friend, weed is natural and since he is very leery about taking ibuprofen or anti-inflammatories that may damage his liver or kidneys due to long term use, he prefers to go natural. When I recommended my drug of choice – Icy Hot and an occasional deep tissue massage at RDV – he respectfully countered by stating his most effective relief comes from marijuana.
Shortly after my discussion with my friend, I read a story about a young girl who suffered from seizures who found relief with medicinal marijuana. I read about a cancer patient who had severe nausea from chemotherapy and found relief with medicinal marijuana. Even more close to home, a family member who suffers from HIV shared that many of her friends with the disease use marijuana to help with weight gain. With each story, I developed a greater understanding of medicinal marijuana, its uses and benefits, and changed my stance a bit to support medicinal marijuana. However, after being contacted by an out-of-state entrepreneur seeking to establish a dispensary in West Orange County, “like the weed shop in the movie Entourage,” I surmised that with a medicinal marijuana grow facility less than 10 miles away, in Winter Garden, there is a very real possibility that a "weed shop" may be coming to a location close to home soon.
Because my vision of a “weed shop” has always been the California-model that Snoop Dog brags about, I did some research and found that there are actually a couple shops already quietly operating in our state. Using Surterra, one of the five state approved dispensaries, which has a Wellness Center in Tampa as an example, folks should understand that these “weed shops” will be placed in approved areas and will follow strict guidelines. The Surterra dispensary is a 2,000-square-foot storefront that many say resemble a day spa or high-end salon. The store is supervised by a registered nurse and offers three types of marijuana products: two oral products that are sprays and tinctures, as well as lotions used to spot-treat pain. But the real question is: Will there ever be a move to approve the recreational use of marijuana? If so, are these dispensaries and "weed shops" the first step to bringing those establishments into existence in our state?
While some municipalities have place moratoriums to ban “weed shops” for a set period of time, many folks in Apopka do not know what their future is in this regard. With a projected 450,000 Florida patients qualifying to use medicinal marijuana to address debilitating illnesses, dispensaries are looking to expand their operations, which will include “weed shops.” Now may be a good time to know where your local government stands on bringing such establishments to the Apopka community – in my humble opinion.
Greg Jackson is a past Assistant Attorney General for the State of Florida, military veteran, current Orange County District 2 Representative on the Board of Zoning Adjustments, and General Counsel for the Community Redevelopment Agency. He has been as an active member of the Central Florida community for nearly 20 years. He was most recently a candidate for the Florida House District 45 seat.
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