By Rachel Christian
A Gainsville-based grower is set to open three medical marijuana dispensaries after Osceola County commissioners reached an agreement with the private company Monday.
During that same meeting, the commission indefinitely banned any future dispensaries from opening in the county.
Green Solutions threatened legal action against the county after officials put a moratorium, or temporary freeze, on all dispensaries in July.
Green Solutions had already earned a 93 out of 100 from the county’s Community Development Application Review Committee and paid a $10,000 fee to the county.
So, when the six-month freeze lapsed on Sunday Green Solutions again threatened suit if Osceola County didn’t grant its three operating certificates Green Solutions claimed it had a “veted right” to do so, according to county documents.
The county drafted a settlement agreement with the Green Solutions in order to avoid a costly taxpayer funded lawsuit, county officials said.
Green Solution requested to open three medical marijuana facilities – two on U.S. Highway 192 and one at the corner of John Young Parkway and Pleasant Hill Road. The company also said it plans to offer delivery service to its customers.
Two of the three facilities still need to go through a re-zoning process, but the third has already been approved, officials said.
Seventy-one percent of Florida voters cast ballots in favor of medical marijuana in November 2016.
Osceola County commissioners said the local July moratorium was put in place because a new state mandate took away certain restrictions on where marijuana dispensaries could operate.
“The state legislature kind of handcuffed us…by saying that we can’t put simple regulations in place,” said Commissioner Viviana Janer at Monday’s meeting. “I’m sure we would have this room full if one was wanting to open right next to an elementary school. People would be in here screaming and crying.”
Three residents spoke during public comment, all opposed to a ban on future dispensaries.
County Attorney Andrew Mai said the board could vote to allow dispensaries to operate under the same rules as pharmacies, or it could universally ban them.
The board unanimously chose to ban them.
Janer said she is happy to see Green Solution’s dispensaries coming to Osceola County.
“We may lift the ban if the state allows us to regulate them how we want,” Janer said. “Until then, I’m glad the residents of the county who need this service will have it available to them.”