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Marco Island City Council greenlights medical marijuana dispensaries

The Marco Island City Council voted Monday in favor of a resolution that provides regulations for medical marijuana dispensing facilities on the island.

The resolution passed 5-2, despite the nay votes of Chairperson Erik Brechnitz and councilor Howard Reed.

The approved resolution reaffirms medical marijuana dispensing facilities are allowed within Marco Island subject to the same regulations as pharmacies and restrictions provided in the Florida Statutes.

On June 3, the City Council voted in favor of a motion to instruct the city attorney to draft the resolution. That motion passed 5-2 with the opposition of Brechnitz and Reed.

Michelle Sullivan, a Marco Island resident, said from her wheelchair that medical marijuana dispensaries close to home is a critical need for people like her. She suffers from multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia and Chohn's disease, among other painful illnesses. 

"I think [...] people don't understand [...] this is to make people like me not to be in so much pain," Sullivan said. Sullivan, at times, had to momentarily stop talking because of her physical pain.

Sullivan was the first speaker of the medical marijuana agenda item. It had been almost two hours since the City Council meeting had started when she was allowed to tell her story.

Robert Popoff, a former Marco Island city councilor, said Tuesday in a phone call he appreciated City Council for trying to move the marijuana item earlier in the agenda but said more could have been done to accommodate patients like Sullivan.

"Having previously been a chairman of that council, they could have made special arrangements for these people," Popoff said.

Kerry (Grganto) Wallace, a Marco Island resident, said she needs a medical marijuana treatment center close to home and that her current medical illnesses may be the result of the side effects of conventional medicines.

"If I (have) had access to medical marijuana before I took that prescription, I would not be attached to a machine that feeds me through my stomach right now," Wallace said while connected to a machine that feeds her liquids.

Doctor James J. Faremouth, a physician and Marco Island resident, said opioids kill people and are not suitable for long-term pain management.

"I have come to realize that treating patients with compassionate medical marijuana treatment centers readily available to them would be the most beneficial," Faremouth said.

Marco Islanders who spoke against having medical marijuana dispensaries in the island said they were concerned about an increase in car accidents, local traffic and that the dispensaries would not be economically viable.

The legalization of recreational marijuana, not medical marijuana, has been tied to an increase in car accidents, according to two studies. Allegations that medical marijuana treatment centers would considerably worsen local traffic or that they would not be economically viable remain to be proven.

Councilor Sam Young, after listening to Marco Islanders, made an important and personal announcement.

"I got my card last week," Young said followed by applause from the crowd. Young was referring to the Medical Marijuana Use Registry Identification Card patients and caregivers must acquire before legally possessing medical marijuana in the state of Florida.

Young said he wants to rely less on opioids to manage his back pain.

As for Sullivan, she will continue to rely on the medical marijuana dispensaries of Bonita Springs, a town 45-minutes away from her home, until the first treatment center establishes in Marco Island.

How Floridians can legally acquire medical marijuana

  1. A qualified physician diagnoses a patient with a qualifying medical condition.If the patient is younger than 18 or terminal, a second physician must concur.
  2. The physician enters the patient's information and order into the Medical Marijuana Use Registry. Caregivers must also be added to the registry.
  3. The patient and any caregivers must then apply for a Medical Marijuana Use Registry Identification Card.
  4. Qualified patients may fill the physician's order at any Medical Marijuana Treatment Center (MMTC).

Source: Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU), Know the Facts.


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