by Jeremy Morrison
Pensacola takes another step toward formalizing its position on medical marijuana dispensaries this week, as the city’s planning board discusses how to accommodate the facilities into existing code.
During the planning board’s meeting today (Oct. 11), members will consider amending the city’s land development code to allow for medical marijuana dispensaries in zoning areas designated as retail-commercial, or C-1. Any recommendation the board makes will go before the Pensacola City Council for approval.
During a Sep. 15 discussion the council decided to send the issue to the planning board and appeared ready to sign off on such an amendment to the code.
“I absolutely support this. I absolutely support medical marijuana dispensaries in our community, I believe they’re a much needed thing,” said Councilman Larry B. Johnson, adding that he hoped a November ballot initiative aimed at expanding the legal scope of medical marijuana is successful. “I believe it’s time, the time has come.”
Several council members voiced support for the code amendment and medical marijuana in general, but first they heard from a local veteran who weighed in on the issue. Veteran Bill Cody began by telling the council about a helicopter crash 14 years ago in Afghanistan during which he broke his back
“The biggest challenge, however, is not the over 40-inches of titanium in my back, or the PTSD that causes anxiety,” Cody said. “My biggest challenge has been an 11-year VA-prescribed opiate addiction.”
Cody said that the prescribed medication had proven detrimental and addicting, and credited medical marijuana with helping him kick the addiction and progress in his recovery efforts.
“When I was residing in another state I discovered the miracle of medical cannabis and that is the primary reason I am no longer on opiates,” Cody said, adding that he’d been off the medication for three years.
Council members all thanked the veteran for his service, and several went on to comment on both medical marijuana and the issue of opioid addition.
“I had a father who was addicted to opioids and it changed his life,” Council President Charles Bare told Cody. “It made him a different person. So, anything that we can do to try to help people with their pain with something not so addictive I am definitely one to support that.”
The planning board will discuss the possibility of the medical marijuana dispensary amendment at its Oct. 11 meeting, scheduled for 2 p.m. at Pensacola City Hall.