Sarasota Officials Cracking Down on CBD Shops

By Kaitlyn M.
Sarasota, Florida officials are denying entrepreneurs business fronts and handing out citations to those who sell CBD without a medical marijuana license. Why have they started doing this and how is it affecting CBD shops?

Sarasota Officials Cracking Down on CBD Shops

Sarasota, Florida is an interesting town to live in. It is mainly a destination stop for vacationers and a place for others to retire. But people like me have lived here most of my life and have seen the good and the bad that happens in Sarasota.

CBD started coming to Sarasota only a few years ago and it has changed my life as well as many others. But officials say it is a danger to use CBD from these vendors and want them to close up shop.  

CBD Shops in Sarasota Under Fire

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Over the last month, Sarasota officials have started taking action against local CBD shops and trying to force them to shut down. This is confusing to me and others seeing as CBD contains under the legal limit of THC to be considered cannabis and is legal to sell. But according to officials, this is not the case.

Fox 13 reported that one man named Joe Griffith attempted to apply for a building permit for his CBD shop, he was denied because selling CBD without a medical marijuana license is illegal under Florida state law. Griffith is a firefighter who sells CBD and uses it to help with his PTSD like so many others.

Griffith received his denial notice with an email from Sarasota County that said,

Your application and email have been referred to me as Sarasota County’s Zoning Administrator. After review and consultation with our office of the county attorney, I offer the following information. While the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (also known as the Farm Bill) removes hemp from the federal Controlled Substance Act’s list of illegal drugs, making CBD oil legal under federal law, the new law does nothing with regard to state law. CBD oil falls within the definition of “cannabis’ in section 893.02(3), Florida Statutes, and is not legal under Florida law unless distributed by a medical marijuana treatment center. As a result, we are unable to approve your Business Use Permit at this time. We are aware of other locations promoting the sale of CBD oil within the county, and are addressing the issue.

That statute does state that Florida law considers cannabis to be any part of the cannabis plant whether its growing or not. But wouldn’t that contradict the Farm Bill from 2018?

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Many storefront owners are just as confused as I am and even more terrified about losing their business. It seems that officials are scared when it comes to the growing popularity of CBD and that it can be bought anywhere without regulation.

Michael Harrell with the Sarasota Police Department spoke to ABC 7 News about this issue stating it is a public safety issue. Harrell said, “We’re starting to see a proliferation of this product showing up in the city and elsewhere in this state, being sold everywhere from stand-alone stores to gas stations. We just need the public to know that it’s a public safety issue because most of this stuff nobody knows for sure where it comes from.”

Harrell continued by stating you don’t know where the CBD comes from and if it is even real CBD oil. He added, “I’m sure they’re getting them from many different locations and many different distributors, some even maybe from overseas. You just don’t know what’s going to be in the product. What type of oil is it? And what else is in the oil in order to fill the bottle? According to the medical marijuana statute that we have right now on the books in Florida, a cannabis product, even with no THC can only be dispensed by one of the licensed dispensaries.”

Confusion and Frustration from Store Owners

My question to Harrell and Sarasota officials is if that is true, then why were other CBD stores approved in the first place? Shelby Isaacson, Co-Owner of Second and Seed opened her shop in late September without any issues and is now being threatened by the city to stop selling CBD. But Isaacson says she is not planning on stopping selling CBD anytime soon.

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She said, “I know what I’m doing here is right and I’m helping people on a daily basis and I’m not going to stop doing that. Hemp is under the agricultural act, there is one that came out in 2014 and one that came out in 2018, because of those if you have THC less than .3 than it is legal.”

Isaacson and other CBD shops are Sarasota are frustrated by this sudden worry by the county about whether their product is safe when it was fine when they started their businesses. It seems that Sarasota is afraid of CBD and marijuana in general, but what harm is this product doing? There have been no reported illnesses or sickness due to CBD in Sarasota that would warrant these businesses to shut down and they are helping the economy.

Isaacson said, "We’re here, we’re creating jobs, we have invested in local non-profits. We’re helping the citizens here and that’s what we’re ultimately trying to do is create a better life for everyone.”

Hopefully, this issue will be rectified and Sarasota County officials will either stop attacking local business owners or provide real information on how CBD is harming anyone.

Citations

1.Kimberly Kuizon Sarasota County denies permit to CBD retailer, citing state law. Retrieved February 14, 2019 from http://www.fox13news.com/news/local-news/sarasota-county-denies-permit-to-cbd-retailer-citing-state-law

2. “Cannabis” means all parts of any plant of the genus. Retrieved February 14, 2019 from http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0800-0899/0893/Sections/0893.02.html

3.Steve Fiorillo Is CBD Oil Legal? State-By-State and Future Legality. Retrieved February 14, 2019 from https://www.thestreet.com/lifestyle/health/is-cbd-oil-legal-14802001

4.Rick Adams Sarasota Police warning CBD shops saying they are breaking the law. Retrieved February 14, 2019 from http://www.mysuncoast.com/2019/02/12/sarasota-police-warning-cbd-shops-saying-they-are-breaking-law/

5. New CBD Shop Opens Downtown. Retrieved February 14, 2019 from https://www.sarasotamagazine.com/articles/2018/9/25/new-cbd-shop-opens-downtown

About the author: Kaitlyn M.

Kaitlyn is one of our regular contributors to cover Products and Lifestyle. She's living in the palmy Florida.