Anyone who wants to open a new medical marijuana business in Estero will have to wait.
The Village Council on Wednesday passed a one-year moratorium on cannabis dispensaries.
According to Estero's ordinance, the delay will give the village time to see how the state handles Amendment 2, which legalized the cultivation, production and prescription of cannabis for a wider group of eligible patients.
"It just gives you that cooling off period to do what's in the best interest of Estero," Village Attorney Burt Saunders told the council before Wednesday's vote.
In November, Florida voters passed Amendment 2, a constitutional change that allows the use of marijuana to treat 10 specific ailments — such as epilepsy, glaucoma and AIDS. The amendment also grants doctors the ability to prescribe the drug for any other similar condition.
Amendment 2 passed with 71 percent approval, well above the 60 percent it needed to become law.
In October, Estero Councilor Katy Errington brought up the need for a temporary ban in Estero because she said her district's empty store fronts might lure medical marijuana entrepreneurs. Soon after, the council asked staff to draw up a contingency ordinance, a version of which passed Wednesday.
At least one person has already expressed interest in opening a medical marijuana business in Estero. Village resident Lorraine Fierro said during public comment that she wants her future clinic in either Estero or Bonita Springs.
Fierro said she has family in Colorado, a state that in 2013 legalized the retail sale and possession of marijuana, and she has seen medical marijuana dispensaries during her visits.
"It's very much like a doctor's office," Fierro said. "This is not about people walking down the streets."
Fierro likely won't be the last person to approach Estero for permission to dispense cannabis.
Medical marijuana is expected to be lucrative in Florida. Arcview Group, an investor network with a cannabis industry market research firm, estimates Florida's medical marijuana sales could top $1.6 billion by 2020.
"Savvy entrepreneurs and pioneering investors are rightfully exuberant about the Florida market. And, thankfully, seriously ill patients will no longer need to go to high school parking lots or drug dealers to get their medicine," Troy Dayton, CEO of The Arcview Group, said in a statement.
Under Amendment 2, local governments retain the power to limit the number, location and permitting of dispensaries that want to set up shop.
Saunders said Wednesday it could take state legislators up to next August to have rules in place.
"There will be a lot of questions that folks have that can't be answered just yet," Saunders said. "It's going to take that long to get something out of Tallahassee."
Estero is in no rush, Vice Mayor Howard Levitan said.
"It's entirely appropriate for us to go slow on this," Levitan said.