OCALA -- Three versions of a medical marijuana ordinance will be created by the Ocala City Council to help officials explore the idea of allowing dispensaries to set up shop within the city.

The three ordinances will be presented to the planning and zoning committee. The ordinances allow dispensaries in the city but with restrictions, a moratorium that allows more time for officials to consider their operation in Ocala and an outright ban on dispensaries in the city. Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn has said he will veto anything that is short of a ban by council members.

“We deal with this all over the state,” Victoria Walker, community relations at Trulieve, a grower and dispensary that operates in other parts of Florida, told the Florida Record. “There are over 400 municipalities that have some sort of decision-making to do on whether they are going to allow dispensaries.”

Warnings of vetoes from leaders like Guinn are common, Walker said. 

“There’s an enormous misconception on medical marijuana dispensaries in the state of Florida. Florida has some of the strictest laws on medical marijuana. It’s currently legal for only a limited number of conditions," she said.

According to Trulieve, this misconception can be debunked just by walking into their dispensaries as they are more of a medical environment that caters to a clientele that is over the age of 55. 

“When you walk into one of our dispensaries, they’re beautiful,” Walker said. "They’re comfortable. They don’t have Bob Marley pictures everywhere like the dispensaries you see in California or Colorado. It’s very medical orientated in that the only people allowed in our dispensaries are those that have received a recommendation from their physician."

With locations in Tallahassee, Clearwater, Bradenton, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Miami and Pensacola, Trulieve is eyeing the Ocala market and has plans--if approved--to set up a dispensary there. If Ocala does put an outright ban on allowing any dispensaries from opening shop in its city limits, Walker said Florida patients can still access the variety of medical marijuana products it sells such as vaporizers, capsules, oral syringe, droplets, and soon-to-launch topical creams through its statewide delivery program.

“The fact that there is not a dispensary in Ocala is not going to be the end of the world as we will deliver to them,” said Walker. “We deliver statewide.” 

The Florida medical marijuana market is different in relation to what you see in California or Colorado as not only do dispensaries such as Trulieve engage with an older clientele, they can only sell medical marijuana products that can’t be ignited for a strictly limited number of health problems that have been recommend by a medical professional, Walker said.

“When you see municipalities react like this, they are reacting to tactics and problems that have been seen in Colorado and California. None of those problems would exist in Florida because of the way the legislation has gone about approving this,” said Walker.

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