Clermont, Davenport add marijuana dispensaries to zoning as use becomes more accepted
By J. Kyle Foster
Aug 07, 2020 at 2:58 PM
Three years after Florida approved medical marijuana, central Florida cities Clermont and Davenport are now ready to accept dispensaries within their city limits.
Lake and Polk counties have been allowing dispensaries to open however Clermont and Davenport hadn’t opted into the state’s rules until last month. Each city separately approved the addition of medical marijuana dispensaries into their land development code under the same zoning categories that allow pharmacies. That means, companies that get state approval to open dispensaries will only need proper permitting for build out and to follow the state’s rules such as being at least 500 feet from a school – to be confirmed by the cities.
Clermont already has its first dispensary underway with Quincy-based Trulieve as the first signed tenant in the Class A office building Fifty West, Clermont Planning and Development Services Director Curt Henschel told GrowthSpotter. “This could be an asset for the city,” Henschel said. The industry has proven itself and Clermont officials believe medical marijuana dispensaries will serve a real need for its residents.
Clermont’s previous ban on dispensaries was “just to be on the safe side,” Henschel said. With 263 dispensaries now in Florida, “It’s not taboo anymore.”
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At a meeting of the City Commission in July, “we received nothing but support” from residents, who said they were having to travel out of the area to get their medical marijuana prescriptions filled, he said.
State rules adopted in 2017 left cities with two options: ban dispensaries outright or regulate their locations to the same degree that pharmacies are regulated. In Davenport, City Planner Raymond Perez wouldn’t call the previous years without dispensaries a ban. “We’re not holding up anything,” he told GrowthSpotter. “We wanted to make sure we went through the process.”
The city commission had a ban on its agenda in 2018 when a company showed interest in opening a dispensary, so commissioners reconsidered and tabled a final vote on the banning measure. That company didn’t follow through, Perez said, and now the city has established the position that the businesses are permitted by the land code after unanimous approval this week.
There have been calls of interest, Perez said, and those have been sent to the city manager to explain the city’s plans for approval. City manager Kelly Callihan is on vacation through Aug. 17 and couldn’t be reached.
Florida’s 263 dispensaries serve nearly 382,311 medical marijuana cardholders as of July 31, according to Florida Department of Health Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU).
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Trulieve, which opened Florida’s first dispensary in 2018, has 56 of the state’s dispensaries. The company, which employs more than 3,000 people in Florida, California and Connecticut, plans a 3,200-square-foot dispensary at Fifty West at Plaza Collina in Clermont.
The fast-growing company, which plans a dispensary in Polk County near Davenport and already has location in Lakeland, ended 2019 with over $250 million in total sales. The U.S. medical marijuana market is forecast to exceed $8 billion by 2024, according to a report issued by Market Study Report in April.
Fifty West is a 29,000 square foot office building on State Road 50. Built by developers Keith and Boris Kovatch, the Class-A office space is the first in the city in decades and its opening has been much anticipated, Henschel said.
Adding medical marijuana to the list of health and wellness benefits the city offers is part of plan to serve all residents’ needs, he said. Orlando Health announced plans last month to add a new 110-bed patient tower to the existing 140-bed Orlando Health South Lake Hospital in Clermont.
“We’re definitely giving people a reason to stay and a reason to move here as well,” Henschel said.