By Joe Brown
This November, Florida could become the 21st state, along with the District of Columbia, to allow medical marijuana use. For those wanting a preview of how Amendment 2 will look on the ballot, it reads as follows:
“Allows the medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating diseases as determined by a licensed Florida physician.
“Allows caregivers to assist patients in the medical use of marijuana.
“The Department of Health shall register and regulate centers that produce and distribute marijuana for medical purposes and shall issue identification cards to patients and caregivers.
“Applies only to Florida law.
“Does not authorize violations of federal law or any nonmedical use, possession or production of marijuana.”
The amendment needs the approval of 60 percent of Florida voters to become law. Recent polls show that it’s likely to pass, and I’ll probably vote for it.
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Like our president, along with a former one, I admit to smoking marijuana in the past, but never a whole joint at once. A former college roommate was a heavy smoker, and a few days a week he and few others would get together, roll a few joints, stuff a towel under the dorm door and get wasted. I didn’t know at the time that cannabis had any medicinal capabilities, but I do know they were feeling no pain.
I ignored them most of the time, but once in a while I took a drag to get them to quit pestering me. One day I took about three of them and got really silly. That was over 40 years ago, and haven’t done it since.
Even back then I thought marijuana prohibitions to be outdated and, with the ease my roommate and his buddies purchased the stuff, futile. As with other drugs, I questioned the wisdom of punishing people who were essentially punishing themselves, and that better alternatives were needed.
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Public opinion on the issue has taken a drastic turn in recent years. Two states, Colorado and Washington, allow recreational use of marijuana. Regarding the Florida ballot measure, more than a dozen clinical trials of inhaled cannabis for conditions such as nerve pain and muscle spasms have shown to benefit patients. About 1 million people in the United States are authorized to use the stuff for medical purposes, and if it can ease their suffering, why not give them some relief?
There certainly will be abuse of the system, but that’s already happening with prescription drugs. According to some statistics provided by the Hillsborough County Adult Drug Court, at least 75 percent of its drug cases are pill related, not cocaine or marijuana. We wouldn’t deny legally prescribed remedies to those who really need them because of improper use by a few, and we shouldn’t do it with cannabis.
Voters who are on the fence can attend a seminar Thursday at St. Petersburg College Seminole Campus, 9200 113th St. N., Seminole, titled “Medical Marijuana: Should Florida Go to Pot?” The panel will includePinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.
We need to have a full, honest debate about legalizing marijuana, or at least whether we should keep criminalizing its use. In the meantime, I believe medical patients who can use cannabis to ease their pain shouldn’t endure unnecessary suffering.
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