FL: Barron Collier Cos. Eyes Land Near Immokalee For Medical Marijuana Center

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Barron Collier Cos., one of the largest landowners in the state, might bring a medical marijuana treatment center or licensed grower to northern Collier County.

The facility would be built on 70 acres of farmland about 4 miles north of Immokalee on the west side of State Road 29, according to a November letter to Collier County’s zoning department.

The letter, written by lawyers representing Barron Collier Cos., asked the county to clarify its zoning rules to ensure a medical marijuana facility would be allowed at the site. That is a prerequisite to apply to the Florida Department of Health for a license to operate a medical marijuana treatment center.

It would be allowed, said county zoning director Mike Bosi.

Part of the state’s application process requires the county to write a letter of no objection, to verify the land is zoned properly for agriculture and is not within 500 feet of a school.

The site meets the state’s criteria, Bosi said.

Company spokeswoman Andrea McLendon would not confirm or deny intentions to build the facility.

“As one of the largest agricultural land owners in the state of Florida, Barron Collier Companies seeks to clarify and understand allowable land uses on agricultural property within Collier County,” McLendon said in a statement.

It’s unclear how soon Barron Collier Cos. could push forward an application if the company applies to operate a treatment center, or if the company is interested in working with an already licensed medical marijuana operator.

Right now Barron Collier is just applying for a zoning verification letter from the county — they just want to know what are the allowable uses for land they own and land they lease,” McLendon said.

In the November letter, lawyers representing Barron Collier said the company plans to bring a medical marijuana treatment center to the site.

“To assist in your research, please note that the property is currently zoned agricultural and Owner (Barron Collier) intends to cultivate and process medical marijuana grown on-site and to deliver medical marijuana to qualified patients and licensed dispensaries in accordance with applicable statutory law,” Francesca Passidomo wrote on behalf of the Coleman Yovanovich Koester law firm.

The health department is not accepting new applications to operate treatment centers  but plans to start accepting them again this spring, spokeswoman Mara Gambineri said.

The state has licensed just 13 companies to operate treatment centers. Since Florida voters greatly expanded access to medical marijuana in 2016, those companies can open new dispensing, processing or growing locations upon approval by the state health department.

None of the companies has submitted plans or applied to open new growing centers or dispensaries in Collier County, Gambineri said.

Collier County has temporarily banned marijuana dispensaries — retail centers where the drug is sold directly to patients — but that ban does not affect marijuana growers, Bosi said.

“The state does not allow counties to restrict where cultivation centers can go,” he said. “That’s completely up to the state, so long as they are zoned agricultural and not within 500 feet of a school.”

Collier County’s ban on dispensaries is set to expire in June, but commissioners will be asked as soon as Tuesday to decide whether to extend the ban.

Commissioners put the ban in place, saying they wanted more control over where the dispensaries could open and how many there would be. As this year’s legislative session winds down, it is unlikely that state lawmakers will give counties more control to permit or limit dispensaries.

The law allows a county or municipality to either ban marijuana dispensaries or treat them like pharmacies.

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