First Miami Medical Marijuana Dispensary Approved | Florida Dispensaries
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First Miami Medical Marijuana Dispensary Approved

  • The city of Miami, Florida has approved its first medical marijuana dispensary license.
  • The city was essentially forced to allow dispensaries to operate by a court decision.
  • The City Council is working to amend zoning laws in order to get a handle on where and how many dispensaries could end up within city limits.
  • The approval of Miami’s first dispensary is expected to result in an avalanche of applications from other companies. 
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Good news for Florida medical marijuana cardholders who live in the city of Miami. The city has been notably resistant to the idea of allowing medical marijuana dispensaries within city limits. Those days are over as city commissioners voted 3-2 Thursday to approve a license for a company called MRC44 to open a dispensary in downtown Miami. 

MRC44 is managed by Los Angeles-based entrepreneur and real estate investor Romie Chaudhari. The dispensary will be located downtown at 90 NE 11th St., near two nightclubs — Space and E11even. 

Six Years in the Making

It’s been a long time coming. It’s been six years since voters opted to legalize the medical use of cannabis. During that time, the state has licensed 425 Florida medical marijuana dispensaries — not one of which was in Miami.

The friction to the idea came from City Commissioner Manolo Reyes who voted against allowing dispensaries in the city because he want to “establish the regulations before they are authorized to be selling this marijuana, which is being called medical marijuana, and make a clear distinction between medical marijuana and recreational marijuana.” (This took six years?)

The Court Ruling Allowing MJ Dispensary

Interestingly, the above concerns were never answered and their resolution is not the reason the license was granted. MRC-44 had to take the city to court. After several years of doing battle, the court ruled that because Miami hadn’t specifically banned dispensaries, it had to allow the company to operate. (City attorneys used the “marijuana is federally illegal” argument.)

Commissioners Differ on their opinion

Regardless of the court’s decision, City Commissioners Joe Carollo and Manolo Reyes voted against the measure. Both insisted that if the city of Miami gave out one license to operate everyone would want one. And they’re probably right. 

“I’m of the opinion that before we move forward in voting on this we need to establish our ordinance that what are the procedures and guidelines for someone to open up such an establishment. Otherwise, we’re kind of making this into a sort of Cheech and Chong free-for-all.” ~ Miami City Commissioner Joe Carollo

“You know how it is. They are going to be all over. Wherever you go and they are permitted, you see people smoking pot in the streets.” ~ Miami City Commissioner Manolo Reyes

Commissioner Alex Díaz de la Portilla argued that the 2016 referendum should be respected: 

The people of Florida decided to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in Florida. The city of Miami has to keep up with the times. Properly regulated, it’s the time to do it. We have to move forward and not look backwards.”

Commissioner Ken Russell, who, himself, carries a medical marijuana card, said:

“Florida voters decided that it should be accessible in our state. Because of the conflict between state and federal law, however, our City Commission had to settle the dispute as to whether our residents would get that access. We voted that they will.” 

He added that the federal government needs to catch up to the will of the people.

Marijuana Strains

Will there be more marijuana dispensaries in Miami?

The decision to allow one dispensary to set up shop in Miami is expected to result in an avalanche of competitors vying to do the same. Dispensaries operating in surrounding areas such as Coral GablesMiami Beach, and Miami-Dade County would be likely candidates.

In an effort to gain some measure of control over where to allow the operation of dispensaries in Miami, city commissioners plan to review and make changes in the city’s zoning code. 

In the state of Florida, medical marijuana dispensaries are treated like pharmacies. During pandemic lockdowns, dispensaries were permitted to continue to operate due to being deemed essential businesses

Will Florida legalize recreational marijuana?

Currently, 19 U.S. states have legalized the adult recreational use of marijuana. Will Florida follow suit?

A recreational marijuana market could be serious a boon for the Sunshine State and could result in a substantial increase in tourism. Florida’s medical program is one of the most popular in the U.S. with more than half a million residents being granted medical marijuana cards — that’s about 2.5 percent of the population and four times as many as the Ohio medical marijuana program

Cannabis advocates and state legislators alike are working toward legalizing marijuana in Florida in 2023. Advocates are circulating a recreational marijuana petition. Meanwhile, lawmakers are working to keep control of the situation in the legislature. 

It’s important to point out that not all cannabis advocates are in favor of allowing recreational marijuana dispensaries in Florida. Some fear that the added demand for recreational cannabis could cause shortages for medical marijuana patients. And there would be a lot of added demand and shortages are already a problem at some dispensaries.

Interestingly, one of the initiatives being circulated involves the right for adults 21+ to grow marijuana at home but does not legalize recreational marijuana dispensaries in Florida. 

The Florida medical marijuana market pulled in $155.7 million in August. Trulieve currently leads the pack of Florida dispensaries along with Columbia Care, Liberty Health, Fluent, Cresco Labs (Sunnyside), and MedMen several of which own marijuana dispensaries nationwide. Other multi-state operators such as Planet 13 are also making inroads into the lucrative Florida marijuana market. 

Although no one thinks it’s going to be an easy win, advocates are confident that recreational marijuana will be legalized in Florida. 

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