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Hazy about medical marijuana laws in Florida? Here are the basics. Lisa Broadt/TCPalm.com

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Medicinal marijuana dispensaries will be banned in Collier County for another six months as local commissioners try to wait for state lawmakers to change the rules surrounding them.

County commissioners want control over the number of dispensaries that could open after voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2016 opening up rights for the use of medicinal marijuana.

The state law doesn't give counties that control. Local governments have two options: Either ban dispensaries outright or treat them like pharmacies.

If counties opt to allow the dispensaries, they wouldn't have any say over how many could open or where they could open, except for keeping them from within 500 feet of a school.

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The temporary ban on dispensaries was set to end Dec.31. With the ban now extended several times and lasting longer than a year, it is becoming less and less temporary, said Commissioner Bill McDaniel, the lone commissioner to vote against the ban.

"The legislation was poorly written," McDaniel said. "But it is a constitutional amendment. There was nothing in the question voters approved about local municipalities opting out." 

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The state has set limits on the number of dispensaries that can open in each region of the state, but not in individual counties. The law divides Florida into five sections. Each section will be allowed a certain number of dispensaries based on its population.

Increasing the ban six months should give lawmakers time to change the rules, Commissioner Burt Saunders said.

"If we open the door to dispensaries now then it is wide open," Saunders said. "Then the only control we have is that they can go wherever a pharmacy can, which, in Collier County, is just about every corner."

The state has limited the number of dispensaries that can open regionally. With 17 percent of the state's population, Southwest Florida would be allowed about 70 dispensaries to start.

Those dispensaries would be split across Collier's region, which also includes Lee, Charlotte, DeSoto, Glades, Hendry, Highlands, Hillsborough, Manatee, Okeechobee and Sarasota counties, minus any that choose to ban dispensaries.

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