Walton County will soon have medical marijuana dispensaries

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WALTON COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Medical marijuana dispensaries will soon open in Walton County.

Back in February, Walton County Commissioners put a 90-day moratorium in place to give them time to research and talk about how they wanted to approach the new medical marijuana law.

During this past legislative session in Tallahassee, lawmakers cleaned up a lot of language regarding medical marijuana.

Tuesday, the commissioners passed their ordinance, laying out the law's specifics when it comes to regulating dispensaries in the area.

"We're going to be by the state required to allow that thing here in the county. What this does is gives the county the ability to protect themselves, limit where they want those places and have really county wide regulation that will be a little separate from the state," said Walton County's Public Information Manager, Louis Svehla.

In the ordinance, they decided to allow one dispensary south of the bay and one north of the bay.

They also established the dispensaries must be more than 13-hundred feet from schools, churches, daycares and parks, as well as they looked at incorporating ways to educate young people on the difference between recreational and medical marijuana.

Although one of the biggest concerns for board members is minimizing any crime that may be associated with the sale of medical marijuana.

"I hear of the robberies. See these dispensaries have to deal in cash so there has been many robberies .I just hope we have been restrictive enough about where we are putting them," Board Chair Cecilia Jones said.

The board gave the public a chance offer any recommendations they believe would be appropriate.

"Nowhere in the ordinance does it state any requirements for age limits for employees of these types of businesses," James Hurley pointed out. "I think there needs to be a minimum age requirement for the employees for these types of businesses."

"It was kinda the chicken before the egg," Commissioner Melanie Nipper explained. "This ordinance had to be written before I could get input which I find odd."

"There are now rules in place and they certainly have the ability to go back at anytime and add or make changes to the current ordinance, but they felt conformable that what was presented [Tuesday] needed to be in place to ensure that there is some regulation in the county," said Svehla.

One local told commissioners she appreciates what they're doing in regard to this new state law.

"This is not legalizing marijuana," Santa Rosa Beach resident Carolyn Zonia said. "This is providing a path for easing the pain and suffering for afflicted individuals under the control of physicians, so I appreciate all the work that you have done. I think that 71 percent of Floridians voted for this, we understand how important this is and especially in Walton County, I appreciate what you guys are doing to help those people."

The ordinance also established a committee, who will regulate how they'll choose the two dispensaries.

"The state still has some stuff to do, the Department of Health is still working on some things they are going to do and as a county, the committee that was established [Tuesday] will really look at what is required to set regulations of what you need to do to qualify to be one of the two dispensaries that this ordinance allows," said Svehla. "I can tell you they're not just gonna pop up because we have just regulated them to two. Plus the state has certain vendors that have been qualified, pre-qualified by the state to be dispensaries. They're gonna have to be regulated through the process so they can't just open a store now. If they want to be one of those two in that location. This ordinance puts that process in place."

Walton County officials said although the law goes into effect immediately, the public should not expect to see any dispensaries pop up for a few more months.