No response from Columbia Care as Marco Island medical marijuana patients wait for dispensary
A medical marijuana dispensary that submitted a building permit application to Marco Island in October has not sent corrections the city requested 10 months ago, according to Raul Perez, chief building official.
A city report shows Columbia Care has not responded to requests to correct or resubmit building, fire, planning and flood plain documents for a dispensary on 695 Bald Eagle Dr. as of Aug. 5.
"There has not been any action on this permit application from the applicant since then," Perez wrote in an email the same day.
As of Thursday, Columbia Care had not reached out to Perez or his staff about the pending permit, he said.
Columbia Care did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Missy Prange, a Marco Island resident, said she had not read or heard about the anticipated dispensary since last year when Columbia Care submitted the building permit application.
"It seems to have just halted," she said.
Prange was diagnosed six years ago with several disorders that can cause severe muscle pain and joint damage, she said. As a former triathlon athlete, she was used to being active.
"It just stopped me in my tracks," she said. "It feels like my shoulder is broken or my wrist is broken."
For the next four years, Prange tried conventional medicine, among other options, but she was still in great pain and enduring the side effects of the medications while bills were piling up, she said.
Prange said during six months she self-administered every two weeks a prescribed shot to reduce the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Each shot cost $2,500, she said.
"I definitely gave four years of my life to trying what the doctors wanted me to try (which) did not help me and cost me a lot of money," she said.
It has been two years since Prange started using medical marijuana and now the pain has become more manageable, she said.
She takes CBD oil drops with trace amounts of THC every morning to prevent chronic symptoms throughout the day. CBD or cannabidiol is a nonintoxicating ingredient found in cannabis and hemp while THC or tetrahydrocannabinol is the primary psychoactive component in marijuana.
"I don't get high," she said.
During the day, Prange uses a cream with CBD and THC on her joints and an inhaler at night to ease the pain and help her sleep.
Living on the island for more than two decades, Prange said it is frustrating to drive 45 minutes to Trulieve, one of the nearest medical marijuana dispensaries located in Bonita Springs.
"I can drive it, but I can see the people that can't," she said.
Another option is to have the products delivered, which currently costs her $15 per delivery, but she has paid as much as $25, she said.
Prange said the Bonita dispensary takes two to three days to deliver the product to her home and that she has to plan her day accordingly. Florida law requires patients or registered caregivers to be present with their medical marijuana registry card to accept the product.
A Trulieve spokesperson wrote in an email Friday that deliveries make less than 10% of their orders, but it increased up to 20% in the spring during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We made delivery free for patients 65+ and lowered the cost for other patients to encourage people to switch to delivery if they were not comfortable coming to the dispensary," the spokesperson wrote.
For now, residents of Marco and surrounding areas will have to continue driving to Bonita Springs or pay to have their products delivered.
"It would be great to see it here on Marco to help out the people who can't drive," Prange said. "It's really a shame."
In June 2019, Marco Island City Council voted in favor of a resolution that provided regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries on the island. It reaffirmed dispensaries are allowed within the city limits subject to the same regulations as pharmacies and other restrictions from the state.
At the meeting, Michele Sullivan said from her wheelchair that having dispensaries close to home is a critical need for people like her. She was suffering from multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia and Crohn's disease, among other painful illnesses.
At times, she had to momentarily stop talking because of the pain she was in.
Sullivan died last year.