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U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, second from right, talks Monday, Dec. 11, 2017, about his efforts to have medical marijuana reclassified from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule III drug during the grand opening of Surterra Wellness in Pensacola.(Photo: Jody Link/[email protected])

Two years ago, Felicia Duncan’s young daughter, Emma, was having almost 70 seizures a week.

The 8-year-old’s epilepsy was so severe, her family was afraid to let her walk on her own for fear she would collapse and injure herself. Duncan said her family tried 17 different seizure medicines — some of which brought harmful, unexpected side effects like kidney damage — but none of them helped.

Yet after just three months of treatment with medical cannabis, Emma is seizure-free and living a more fulfilling and independent life, according to her mother.

“She can ride a bike,” Duncan said. “She can swim in a pool. She can play with her sisters. Things that I never thought would happen.”

More: Pensacola man with epilepsy sues for access to medical marijuana

Many local families like the Duncans were on hand Monday to celebrate the grand opening of Surterra’s new Pensacola Wellness Center, a medical cannabis dispensary at 5046 Bayou Blvd. The tidy little office sits in a strip mall with a cupcake store, and neatly dressed staff answered questions and filled prescriptions for a steady stream of patients.

The wellness center has already been serving area patients in store and with home deliveries, but U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, and several Surterra executives stopped by to formally celebrate the dispensary’s arrival.

Surterra Wellness at 5046 Bayou Blvd. in Pensacola hosted a grand opening ceremony on Monday, Dec. 11, 2017. Surterra is one of just two

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