Residents oppose Fairhope medical marijuana dispensary

By Guy Busby
Government Editor
guy@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 10/26/22

FAIRHOPE — A doctor and two other Fairhope residents asked city officials to not allow medical marijuana dispensaries in the city.Under recent state legislation, up to 37 sites around Alabama …

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Residents oppose Fairhope medical marijuana dispensary

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FAIRHOPE — A doctor and two other Fairhope residents asked city officials to not allow medical marijuana dispensaries in the city.

Under recent state legislation, up to 37 sites around Alabama will be approved to provide certain cannabis-derived products under a doctor's prescription. In order for a city to be considered as a potential dispensary site, the city council must vote to allow the service in the municipality.

Foley and Daphne have approved allowing dispensaries. No one spoke up in opposition to those plans before the councils in those cities voted to approve the measure.

Some Fairhope residents, however, said at the Oct, 10 city council meeting that allowing medical marijuana dispensaries could lead to more widespread use of the substance.

Dr. Stephen Wittmer said he has practiced medicine for 39 years. He compared the push for medical marijuana to the growth of opioid prescriptions in the 1990s.

Wittmer said medical literature calls for the use of medical marijuana only to treat two types of seizure disorders. He said he is a medical director of Kindred Hospice in Daphne and while he deals with patients coping with cancer pain and in the process of dying, he would not prescribe medical marijuana.

"This will bleed into the general public as it's being prescribed," Wittmer said. "If patients ask me to prescribe it, I will not. It'll also bleed into the adolescents and children who are most vulnerable to the development of cannabis use disorder. There's an increase in car accidents and deaths associated with those accidents and violence associated with the misappropriation of medical marijuana so there again I strongly advise that this not be approved for the city of Fairhope."

Resident Billy Wise said he felt that medical marijuana is being promoted by groups seeking full legalization of the substance.

"Marijuana is not a medicine," Wise said. "Marijuana is an addictive drug that could easily draw children into its grip, especially when introduced to children as a chewable product. There should be no medical dispensary in the city of Fairhope."

Council members introduced the ordinance but said the measure will come up for a final vote at an upcoming meeting.

Councilman Jay Robinson said the Alabama Legislature has voted to allow dispensaries and the facilities will be opened around the state. He said the ordinance would only allow a company to open a dispensary in Fairhope if they wished.

"We are not voting as a council to legalize marijuana one way or the other," Robinson said. "That's already been decided by the state for certain conditions, but in addition to that we're not saying that someone in Fairhope should or shouldn't be getting medical marijuana for any purpose. That again, has to be decided by a physician and that physician has to determine whether or not a prescription is appropriate for that person for that condition and whether or not medical marijuana in any form would be helpful to them."

Councilman Kevin Boone asked if voting to allow dispensaries could be perceived as endorsing the use to medical marijuana.

"It may be in the state of Alabama, but it doesn't have to be in Fairhope That's my whole point," Boone said. "Alabama does what they do but we don't have to condone it. We don't have to accept it."

During the Oct. 10 work session, council members said that if the city does allow dispensaries, the facilities would be restricted to certain areas of Fairhope under municipal zoning regulations. One proposal discussed would restrict dispensaries to the medical district and not allow the facilities in other commercial areas, such as the Central Business District.

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