A Student’s Take: Medical Marijuana and the Sunshine State: Project Based Learning for Emerging Planners

By Jarrell Smith

Fig. 1. Click on image to enlarge

Writing papers, studying for exams, giving presentations, and completing group assignments are all elements individuals experience during their college journey. Correct? Well, how about assisting a local police department in creating a robust transportation and delivery program for medical cannabis (marijuana?)

During the spring 2017 semester at the University of Florida, a group of students enrolled in a crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) course applied CPTED principles to the burgeoning medical marijuana industry in Alachua County.

According to course leader, Dr. Richard Schneider¹, modern CPTED theory and practice includes an emphasis on surveillance, access control designs, the creation of clearly defined spaces and hierarchies, and the recognition of conflicting uses and activities. At the start of the course, students are asked to focus on one of the following planning related themes:
1) location
2) zoning and land use
3) exterior design and signage
4) interior design and store layout
5) security plans and systems
6) risk assessment
7) transportation and delivery

I focused on applying CPTED principles to the transportation and delivery of medical marijuana.

Before enrolling in the CPTED course, most of the students were unaware that medical marijuana had been legalized in the state of Florida.

Consequently, reviewing the Florida Statutes was the first step in the research process. After examining the statutes, the investigators began exploring the regulations other states implemented for medical marijuana. Subsequently, the students consulted Dr. Schneider to determine the most suitable CPTED standards that could reduce opportunities for crime in relatively cost-efficient ways.

Finally, the researchers had the opportunity to present the initial findings and recommendations to public officials from the City of Gainesville and Alachua County at large (Figure 1). In reference to the transportation and delivery of medical cannabis, I know that a comprehensive transportation strategy is vital for the medical marijuana industry considering the vulnerability that exists during ground transportation since medical marijuana is a high-value good.

According to ProCon.org² , an online resource for research on controversial issues, as of April 2017, 29 states and Washington D.C. have legalized medical marijuana use. As the health and economic benefits of medical marijuana are continually revealed, the medical cannabis industry will demand more attention. Before attending the course and conducting research, most of the students overlooked the significant role planning can play in the medical marijuana field. Moving forward, the students are confident that planning professionals, along with medical professionals, will play a significant role in the medical cannabis sector.

Jarrell Smith attends the University of Florida. He can be reached at jarrellsmith@ufl.edu

[1] Schneider, R. (2005). “Introduction: Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED): Themes, Theories, Practice, and Conflict.” Journal of Architectural & Planning Research 22, no. 4: 271-283. Art & Architecture

[2] ProCon.org ( 2017). “29 Legal Medical Marijuana States and DC Laws, Fees, and Possession Limits.” Retrieved from http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000881