Sumter commissioners split on vote for buffers between schools, medical marijuana dispensaries 

Sumter County commissioners Tuesday night approved an ordinance regulating medical marijuana dispensaries, heeding a request to increase the buffer between clinics and schools.

Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment in the Nov. 8 election to allow medical marijuana to be prescribed for certain conditions and for dispensaries to be set up around the state. The state is expected to release guidelines later this year.

The county ordinance would limit the Sumter County clinics to two, based on a ratio of one per 67,500 residents.

During a public hearing on the ordinance, Rozanne Grady of the Drug Free Coalition of Sumter County asked commissioners to increase the buffer to 1,000 feet from 250 feet, which would prohibit opening a dispensary within 1,000 feet of a school or church.

“We feel this provides protection and safety for our children,” Grady said.

The 1,000-foot buffer was approved on a 4-1 vote after County Administrator Bradley Arnold warned that deviating from standard practices could make the county vulnerable to challenges.

Under the ordinance, dispensaries could be located only in areas zoned commercial or industrial and would be subject to police and building inspections. Marijuana could be dispensed only by authorized employees and it must be stored in sealed containers or locked cabinets.

Board chairman Doug Gilpin, who cast the lone vote against enlarging the buffer, said the dispensaries should not be dangerous.

“The idea that shady characters would be standing around, I don’t envision that,” he said. “This is going to happen. There are many people in the country who have a need. We’re not talking about a bar or a party place.”

Commissioners refused to consider another request to expand the buffer requirement to prohibit dispensaries within 1,000 feet of a licensed child care center.