South Florida real estate investors and developers Marc Roberts and Michael Comras are the first to push for medical marijuana stores in Miami, after the city’s de-facto ban on the use went up in smoke last month.
Roberts and Comras, as well as licensed medical marijuana provider The Flowery, are asking the Miami Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board to overturn the zoning administrator’s denial of their requests for certificates of use for dispensaries. The board is expected vote July 6.
The push is the latest in the ongoing feud between real estate owners and medical pot providers against the Miami administration, with City Attorney Victoria Méndez long arguing the use is not allowed because federal law deems medical marijuana as illegal.
Still, proponents now may have a leg up as the Miami City Commission in May went against Méndez’s opinion and voted 3-2 to allow the first dispensary at 90 Northeast 11th Street, a downtown building owned by Roberts and Los Angeles-based real estate investor Romie Chaudhari.
Roberts is back now, with an entity he heads, asking for dispensary opening at 60 Northeast 11th Street. He also owns the adjacent building, according to the agenda for the planning and zoneing board meeting agenda.
Comras CEO and an affiliate wants to open a shop at its two-story retail store at 6901 Biscayne Boulevard, in the MiMo Biscayne Boulevard Historical District.
According to property records and the agenda, The Flowery, headed by CEO Elad Kohen, is seeking to open a dispensary in two Moishe Mana-owned buildings. These are the one-story warehouse at 2222 Northwest Fifth Avenue, Wynwood, and three-story office building located at 172 West Flagler Street, downtown Miami.
Miami Zoning Administrator Daniel Goldberg had denied issuing the applicants’ certificates of use last year. Although the use is allowed in the state, Miami regulations require the city to follow the more restrictive law when there are conflicts between state and federal rules, Méndez has said in the past.
Louis Terminello, the attorney for the four applications, said the city attorney’s “opinion is different from almost 2,000 other municipal city attorneys across the country.”
Roberts, Comras, and The Flowery may open dispensaries if they are approved by the planning board. However, the city zoning officer can appeal the vote to the commissioners.
Last year, after the zoning office appealed the planning board’s favorable decision for a dispensary at 90 Northeast 11th Street, Roberts and Chaudhari, through an affiliate, sued the city.
Miami’s defense strategy hinged on having the case moved to federal court, where the city could argue federal prohibition superseded the state’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment. Judge K. Michael Moore, who wrote in his order last September that the state allowed cities to ban or restrict the use of marijuana, ruled against Miami.
“Unfortunately, for the city, this court has no jurisdiction to fulfill their responsibilities on their behalf,”Moore wrote.
Méndez and Goldberg did not immediately return requests for comment. The city has yet to respond to inquiries about the creation of zoning regulations for dispensaries.
Since the commission’s decision in May to approve the use, Terminello said he has seen pent-up interest that is likely to turn into applications.
“What really needs to happen here,”He said, “is the city commission and its staff need to wake up to the fact that we need an ordinance that regulates medical marijuana dispensaries in the city.”
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