Medical marijuana growers on the rise, stink up St. Johns neighborhood

A smelly situation in St. Johns County highlights the bigger statewide trend of medical marijuana.

“The smell? It was awful,” Judith Beal said. She lives off Racetrack Road. “I thought someone was smoking in the parking lot — it was that strong.”

“I think it smells like skunks,” said Polly Eisenbarth.

Turns out it’s Loop’s Nursery across the street that’s causing the odor for some neighbors, and it’s not because of the flowers.

An Action News Jax Investigation discovered the company was licensed to grow medical marijuana in March of 2022 and it’s not alone. Nearly 30 locations in Northeast Florida got state approval, most within the past year. The first company to get licensed in Northeast Florida was in Nassau County back in September 2021.

The medical marijuana industry is regulated by the state, and each company is required to fill out a variance with the Florida Department of Health. It would allow medical marijuana to be grown on existing farmland which may have once been used for fruits and vegetables before the explosion of the medical marijuana industry.

The variance does have a box to check if the company has an odor mitigation system, but it doesn’t specifically explain what’s required.

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In a statement to Action News Jax, Loop’s Nursery said in part, “…We have not received any complaints, but we are aware of the odor that the plants can produce. We have been actively working on a solution to help mitigate this, which requires some new equipment that should be installed soon.”

Medical marijuana was approved by voters in 2016. Last December, the Florida DOH set the groundwork to increase licenses for medical marijuana growers by 22. However, application fees will also be more than doubled to about $146,000.

“I know people who use it medically and it helps them, it’s prescribed to them. So, I didn’t have a problem with that as long as it was legally done,” Eisenbarth said.

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