Commentary: Florida Medical Association wrong to oppose Amendment 2

By Dr. Anne Morgan

The recent history of medical cannabis in our country has been a tug and pull between those who would preserve the dysfunctional status quo, ignoring the compelling international science and the overwhelming anecdotal evidence of medical marijuana’s therapeutic benefits, and those who insist on defending the rights of the ill and suffering who could greatly improve their quality of life through the use of this plant. As a physician, I have always stood on the side of my patients. That’s the reason I, and many other doctors I know, support Amendment 2, and why I am personally shocked at the recent opposition to this measure expressed by the Florida Medical Association.

My own support for medical marijuana stems from intensive study into the extraordinary properties of this plant. It has shown to be extremely effective in alleviating symptoms from many debilitating diseases and conditions like cancer, glaucoma, Lou Gehrig’s disease, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, Crohn’s disease and more. There is another application for medical cannabis that touches and reaches more people than you might imagine: It’s the possibility of using it to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, as well as traumatic brain injury, or TBI. The science on this is still developing, but the anecdotal evidence (patient self-reported claims) is extremely strong.

As a physician, I have devoted a lot of my time volunteering to work with military veterans. Statistics show that 22 war veterans commit suicide in our country every single day, many of them tormented by PTSD. Testimonies from thousands of former combatants suffering from this condition, many of whom have been prescribed everything from antidepressants to opioids without finding relief, indicate that medical marijuana is an effective treatment option. It helps to significantly lessen anxiety, depression, emotional distress and encourages more restful sleep. It assists them in the resumption of a normal lifestyle, all without the dangerous and negative side effects of the drugs they are usually prescribed. To deny them legal access to this medicine is simply unconscionable.

The FMA has based its opposition on nebulous claims about “unintended consequences,” “public health risks” and concerns about training of health care professionals. First, all of these issues would be addressed by the Florida Department of Health, the agency that would be in charge of writing the regulations for the implementation of Amendment 2 if it were to pass.

Second, why is the FMA suddenly so concerned about physicians handling delicate substances? Are they saying we shouldn’t recommend the use of a plant that has never killed a single patient from an overdose? As a Florida-licensed physician with an active U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration license I am permitted to, and have been prescribing, highly addictive and potentially lethal painkillers to my patients. The question is why would my colleagues and I be compelled to do so when there is a safer and often more efficacious remedy?

To see the Florida Medical Association so blithely and casually ignore the suffering of so many, especially war veterans, has upset me deeply. Amendment 2 is about providing compassionate care to people with debilitating diseases and nothing more. The decision to recommend medical marijuana should rest with physicians, those of us who interact daily with these patients, who know their diseases and how best to care for them. To oppose Amendment 2 is to take this right away from doctors and to put it in the hands of politicians. How the Florida Medical Association can be in favor of that is truly baffling.

© 2014 Palm Beach Post

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