Punta Gorda could to expand medical marijuana dispensary zoning

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A Vietnam veteran says he’s hoping to treat his chronic illness with medical marijuana.

Randy Johnson suffers from emphysema, a lung disease, and he says it is important to make medical marijuana available to those who need it in Punta Gorda.

“I have COPD from too many years of smoking, my lung function is about half of what normal lung function is so I get fatigued easily,” Johnson said.

Now at 23 weeks without smoking, he’s one of hundreds of people who have come to Liberate Physician Center in Port Charlotte to begin the process of becoming a licensed medical marijuana user.

“We have just over 700 patients just at my practice in Charlotte County and we have no dispensary currently located in the County,” Doctor Daniel Smith, who is the chief medical officer at Liberate Physicians.

But that may be changing soon.

Monday, Punta Gorda City Council unanimously voted to expand the zoning areas where medical marijuana dispensaries will be allowed, bringing the city one step closer to opening a shop within city limits.

Dr. Smith said that is good news for his patients.

“We have a lot of people that are, because of their medical condition or other things going on in their life, they don’t drive or can’t drive,” he said.

For hundreds in Charlotte County who using marijuana, having a dispensary in Punta Gorda would mean not having to travel far to fill prescriptions. Currently, the closest dispensaries are in North Fort Myers or North Port.

Council members will take their final vote October 3.

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