Guest commentary: Replacing 'reefer madness' with facts

Jared Grifoni
Marco Island City Council
VidaCann,  a medical marijuana dispensary in Bonita Springs.

During the 2016 election, Florida voters had an important choice in front of them in the form of a proposed amendment to the Florida constitution that would allow medical cannabis to qualifying patients.

Jared Grifoni

The amendment passed in a landslide, garnering over 71 percent of the vote statewide and over 60 percent supermajority of Marco Island voters.

Since that time, the City Council considered a 12-month moratorium on medical marijuana treatment center (MMTC) dispensing facilities in March of 2017. The council wisely voted it down out of respect for the newly codified constitutional rights of our citizens. Over two years have passed since that vote and Marco Island is still going strong with none of the scare tactics and fearmongering ever coming to fruition.

City councilors have presented multiple white papers about the legal landscape and development of MMTC regulations in the state of Florida since the end of 2016. Some of this information was gathered from the Florida League of Cities through day long seminars and webinars with the former head of the Florida Office of Medical Marijuana Use, Christian Bax.

At our last two meetings, City Council considered confirming the current legal state of MMTCs within the city. Under Florida law, cities have two options: a full ban or to regulate dispensaries like pharmacies. Marco Island has never had a ban in effect. This brought out many citizens with heartbreaking experiences who have been subject to unreasonable restrictions on their ability to access the medicine they need to help their ailments and symptoms of serious and painful conditions. These individuals, or those they love, suffer from Multiple Sclerosis, PTSD, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s, just to list a few.

The Marco Eagle has done a great job telling the stories of some of these patients who were courageous enough to share the pain and suffering that they must deal with on a daily basis and how they believe that a MMTC dispensing facility on Marco Island would help them.

Unfortunately, this also brought out a host of negative emails, filled with rigged statistics, false information, misinterpreted (purposely or accidently?) studies, and fear. The same old tired debunked “reefer madness” hysteria. At our council meeting, I did my best in the short time allotted to dispel the lies and innuendo that have dominated the prepared talking points of those who actively seek to deny the relief that their fellow citizens seek and deserve.

On June 17, the City Council had a Reagan-in-West Berlin moment: It was time to “tear down this wall.” With a supermajority (5-2) vote to confirm MMTC dispensing facilities on Marco Island, finally, the blockade on locally accessible medicine for patients with required doctor recommendations in our area had ended. There would be no free-for-all however, MMTCs must be regulated like pharmacies, need to be a minimum of 500 feet from any school, and would have to abide by all stringent state regulations like requiring vertical integration (a single entity response for growth, cultivation, and sale) and a strict and limited licensing process. MMTCs can only operate in commercial zones where pharmacies are currently allowed.

In spite of these clear developments and the will of the voters, some still seek to ban MMTC dispensing facilities and restrict patients’ constitutional rights. This is not the 1930s anymore. Our citizens are intelligent, informed, and compassionate.

In 2015, Marco Island individuals polled answered 63.5 percent in favor that if medical marijuana was legalized, the city should set codes as to where it could be sold. In 2016, Marco Island voters sent a message to Tallahassee with 60.3 percent in favor of amending our state constitution. Medical cannabis is now accepted by 90-plus percent in most polls nationally. Most importantly, medical cannabis helps our citizens and loved ones who are suffering, alleviating symptoms and in some cases helping them live close to normal lives in spite of their illnesses.

Marco Island will not stand on the wrong side of history. We stand together.

If you have any further questions or would like to discuss this issue, contact me via email at or via phone 239-315-2089.