The City of Bonita Spring, Florida is ready to regulate and restrict medical cannabis, even before Amendment 2 is voted on. The preemptive move to limit medical cannabis in Bonita Springs, with what the Mayor of Bonita Srings called “common sense” regulation, comes before voters of the Sunshine States will decide on Tuesday, November 4th to approve or reject Amendment 2, which would legalize a broader medical cannabis program in the State of Florida. Though it seems some local politicians in Bonita Springs are only settling for these regulations for fear that an outright ban on medical cannabis would not stand.

Mayor and Council Want To Prohibit Smoking in Public and Keep Dispensaries Away From Schools 

Ben Nelson, the Mayor of Bonita Springs, told WINK News that a medical cannabis dispensary, “would be a retail establishment and would have a right to go wherever they wanted to go,” under current city law. Mayor Nelson says he doesn’t expect the council will vote on an outright ban of medical cannabis dispensaries, but that a bill to restrict and regulate dispensaries, “Where can it be allowed, where shouldn’t it be allowed, the things you can do, the things you cant do,” Mayor Nelson said. Councilman Mike Gibson has said that if Amendment 2 passes he would strongly fight for restrictions on where medical cannabis could be sold, particularly a ban on dispensaries near schools.

Council Unanimously Votes To Draft Regulations on Medical Cannabis

On Wednesday, September 17th, the Bonita Spring City Council unanimously agreed to allow the City Attorney to draft an ordinance to ban the public smoking of medical cannabis, and to draft regulations for medical cannabis dispensaries and treatment centers. “You can get a contact high from it. It’s not fair,” Mayor Nelson told the News-Press. “The places that have been successful and haven’t had reoccurring problems put the restrictions on distance, where, on how many, how close. Then they never had to address the issue again.” The Council also unanimously adopted a “zoning in progress” regulation on medical cannabis dispensaries.

Bonita Springs City Attorney to Draft Regulations

City Attorney Audrey Vance said that the City would regulate dispensaries similar to how it regulates the locations of homeless shelters and the sale of alcohol. When asked about the public smoking ban, Vance told the News-Press, “The smell can be very strong and can be a distraction to people.” The ban would not prohibit other methods of ingesting cannabis public. Medical cannabis would have to be smoked on private property, such as in a person’s own home. The proposed regulations would limit the number of dispensaries and treatment centers, and how close they can be to other dispensaries and treatment centers, and libraries, parks, and schools. The City Attorney has said he will be working with Community Development, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, and Bonita Springs Fire-Rescue to develop regulations. Vance also said he plans to review ordinances from other municipalities.

“If you put in reasonable restrictions right from the beginning, and you limit the use to let’s say 3 or 4 establishments, it’s proven time and time again, those communities that do that really don’t ever have any problems again and the subject just kind of goes away,” Mayor Nelson to Fox4. “I know that people feel strongly about this, I get it, but the evidence shows that if you do an outright ban, although you may have the right to do that, it gets challenged in court. Somebody who wants to build something there is going to challenge it, it never goes away.” Mayor Nelson looked at how some local governments in California dealt with regulating medical cannabis. “The facilities that they ended up with were good, clean, safe, and not a hang-out for criminals or anything like that.”

Hearings on the public smoking ban and dispensary and treatment center regulations will be held on Wednesday, October 15th, at 9:00 am and Wednesday, November, 5th at 5:30 pm. The City Council will vote on the ordinances on November 5th, one day after voters will have either approved or rejected Amendment 2. will be continue to follow this story.