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Collier’s planning commission discussing medical marijuana dispensaries

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New medical marijuana dispensaries could open near you.

Collier County is discussing whether to allow them to operate in the unincorporated areas of the county.

It is legal in the State of Florida to have these dispensaries but Collier County has not allowed them.

That could change, but it will take a vote from the Collier County Commissioners but that is weeks and maybe months away. The question of whether to allow it will go through many different committees.

However, the lobbying effort is underway.

“Patients who pay to live and one of the most prestigious communities in the country should be able to go to a dispensary in their backyard,” said Nick Garulay, founder and CEO of My Florida Green.

His company does not sell medical marijuana. Instead, it helps patients get their medical marijuana cards.

“Dispensaries are definitely needed, the crime rate actually goes down and that statistic is going to be presented tonight at the planning meeting,” Garulay said. “We have certified over 33,000 patients in the state of Florida, 20,000 right here in Collier County. So there’s a need. And these are patients with debilitating conditions. This isn’t a recreational program. This is a medical program for patients who are suffering from debilitating conditions.”

Collier County Planning Commission will discuss a land development code amendment.

During the first part of the meeting, a lawyer began with a presentation offering rules and standards that operators would abide by, including hours of operation.

If eventually passed, it would open the door to medical marijuana dispensaries opening under the same rules as pharmacies and drug stores.

Marco Island allows medical marijuana dispensaries, but for everyone else, patients have to drive to Lee County to get what they need. There are 10 dispensaries in Bonita Springs, eight in Cape Coral, one in Lehigh Acres, and one on Marco Island.

“It costs a lot of money to live in Collier County. These are patients that deserve access just like anybody else. So it’s time to do this,” Garulay said. “This isn’t a recreational program. This is a medical program for patients who are suffering from debilitating conditions.”

The discussion with Collier County commissioners lasted almost three hours. While arguments may have been anecdotal, the commissioners were listening.

Nevertheless, the motion was denied after a unanimous six to zero vote. Planning commissioners all in agreement to keep the ban on what many call ‘pot shops’.

“Once the state of Florida decriminalizes marijuana the infrastructure is already set up, the county cannot regulate them they cannot get rid of them, they’re going to turn into pot shops it’s about money and that’s where you’re going to see the homeless coming to Naples because they can get their drug here, they’ll be more prevalent,” said retired Naples police lieutenant Johnathan Maines.

The recommendation to deny will go to the board of county commissioners, it could still be weeks or even months before county commissioners vote.