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Florida cities already smoking out areas where pot could be sold

Cities and counties throughout Central Florida are studying their zoning laws as they prepare for a new growth industry: the cultivation and sale of marijuana.

Across the area, local planners are looking at where best to grow and sell pot in their communities should voters approve Amendment 2 on the November ballot.

Some officials have little doubt about what’s on the horizon.

“We think it’s going to pass,” said Maitland Mayor Howard Schieferdecker. “And we want to get ahead of it.”

In his city, officials are looking at an ordinance that could essentially restrict marijuana-dispensary shops to an office park near Interstate 4.

Mount Dora leaders, meanwhile, recently approved a new rule that would ban medical-marijuana shops from much of the city, including its cherished downtown merchant village.

Flagler Beach, Cocoa Beach and other cities and towns have taken up similar rules, with Maitland poised to adopt its pot-shop restrictions next month.

Lawmakers passed limited medical-marijuana legislation last month. And a poll earlier this month showed voters strongly favor an expanded version of that law: Amendment 2, which could fuel a push for growing operations and dispensaries around Florida.

In the Quinnipiac University poll, 88 percent of registered Florida voters supported use of medical marijuana by adults.

Maitland City Attorney Cliff Shepard said many cities worry that the pot shops will resemble the so-called “pill mills” that sprouted and attracted questionable customers amid Florida’s prescription-drug epidemic. And that’s why he wants to act sooner than later.

“The experience with pain-management clinics, that’s a fresh taste left in the mouth of a lot of cities,” Shepard said. “It’s something they don’t want to repeat.”

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