Until the evening of June 17, the issue of medical marijuana dispensaries at the city council meetings had been a matter of data, statistics, and white papers. It was about position papers supporting or opposing the availability of cannabis for ailments that conventional medical treatments have failed to provide relief for.
The relief being sought could be for chronic pain, PTSD in returning veterans, and a myriad of other maladies that affect many in society.
At that Monday evening meeting, a human face was given to the controversial issue when several individuals appeared before the Marco Island City Council to ask that they support allowing medical marijuana dispensaries on the island. They asked for support due to the relief they receive from medical cannabis.
Before the debate of the issue began, Council Chairman Erik Brechnitz requested that all parties refrain from disrespecting the views of those they did not agree with.
Michelle Sullivan, a long-time resident of Marco Island shared her experiences dealing with a number of debilitating ailments which have left her bedridden and wheelchair bound. Struggling through an emotional presentation and pausing several times to regain her composure, Sullivan would tell councilors of her inability to make the drive to Bonita Springs and have access to what she considers her only alternative to deal with the pain she has endured since 2010.
“When I did have the opportunity to try it, I just couldn’t believe the difference it made for me,” said Sullivan.
Kerrie Wallace, who amongst other ailments is suffering from Gastroparesis which prevents her stomach muscles from working properly due to paralysis, is required to feed through a surgically implanted tube in her intestines to receive adequate nutrition.
“We need safe local access to our medications, just like any of you who go to Walgreens,” said Wallace. “I am begging you tonight to vote yes for this medical marijuana treatment center; I know we can do better,” said Wallace.
Dr. James Faremouth, an Osteopathic Manipulative Therapy Specialist in Naples would also come forward to speak in favor of the approval of medical marijuana dispensaries on the island. Faremouth is also able to certify patients in need of medical marijuana.
“I’ve come to realize that treating patients with a compassionate medical cannabis treatment center can be most beneficial to residents that have issues that are treatable,” said Faremouth.
Not all that came forward that evening did so to support the resolution.
Ed Issler, a member of the Marco Island Planning Board came forward to oppose the proposition before the council. Issler had launched an aggressive email campaign in opposition to the resolution. He came under fire for some of the tactics utilized and disseminating misleading information.
A.K. Battaglia came forward and clarified that she was not against legalized medical cannabis but did oppose the location of a dispensary and treatment center on the island. “Bonita Springs already has free delivery to Marco Island,” said Battaglia. She would also go on to question the impact it may have on the economy of the island.
When it came time for councilors to debate the item between themselves on the dais, the exchanges at times were somewhat heated. Councilor Roman was concerned that they hadn’t given the staff time to review all of the details of the resolution and was looking for their read-in on the subject. That was not received well by Councilor Grifoni.
Board Chairman Brechnitz would suggest a modified motion which would have included a clause approving the medical cannabis dispensary/treatment center but banning any future consideration of legalizing “recreational marijuana” on the island.
That attempt would trigger a stern rebuke from Councilors Grifoni and Honig and only Brechnitz, Roman and Reed would support that amendment to the resolution before them.
In the end, Councilors Grifoni, Honig, Rios, Young, and Roman would vote in favor of the motion to allow for medical cannabis dispensaries/treatment centers on Marco Island. Chairman Brechnitz and Councilor Reed would oppose it.