By TED CARTER
“Shop local” is Main Street America’s slogan, but the prized-retail messaging does not include DeSoto countians permitted to buy and use the county’s newest cash crop—medical marijuana.
That’s the rule Columbia Care Services Florida LLC will be operating under as the $1.3 billion national cannabis producer and distributor begins ramping up a Florida operation based just south of Arcadia on U.S. Highway 17. Columbia Care Services recently won approval from the DeSoto Board of County Commissioners to expand greenhouse space to around 75,000 square feet and warehouse space by 21,000 square feet.
DeSoto commissioners welcome the jobs and economic activity the medical marijuana operation brings as Columbia Care moves toward its initial goal of opening dozens of dispensaries across Florida.
But commissioners haven’t yet embraced the products Columbia makes, at least when it comes to letting them be sold in the county.
Nor has Arcadia’s city council.
DeSoto County is an unlikely location for a dispensary. Columbia and other companies in Florida’s emerging medical cannabis sector look for rooftops and major job centers. “To date, the dispensaries have not shown an interest in relocating to DeSoto County,” said Tara Poulton, projects director for DeSoto County, in an email.
Both DeSoto County and the city of Arcadia joined localities around the state that pulled back the welcome mat to medical weed dispensaries after more than 70 percent of Florida voters approved full-strength medical marijuana in November 2016. Communities such as North Port, Sarasota and Fort Myers are outliers allowing medical pot shops to operate.
DeSoto County’s ordinance prohibiting dispensaries, adopted in September 2017, specifies that without a total ban in place, it could not regulate dispensary numbers at all. Its only jurisdiction is in where the shops go, and even that must be done