Florida medical marijuana advocates claim impending victory

By Mary Wozniak

June 3, 2013

Supporters of legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes in Florida are sure 2014 will be the year their wish becomes reality.

“Florida is ready to explode,” said Jodi James, executive director of the Florida Cannabis Action Network. “We firmly believe that Florida patients will have legal access to cannabis by November 2014.”

Strong words in a state where a proposed medical marijuana bill died in committee early in the 2013 legislative session. Sponsor Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, said last week he will bring back the measure for another go-round in 2014. Clemens said he also could propose a constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana.

But legislators could be pre-empted by the power of the people if the drive to collect more than 683,000 voter signatures to put the issue on the ballot takes off. That drive appeared to be sputtering because of a lack of resources until John Morgan, head of the Morgan and Morgan law firm, recently joined the effort in favor of medical pot.

Morgan promised to commit his own funds and raise money from other donors to pay for the signature-gathering campaign, estimated to cost more than $3 million, according to published reports. Backers believe Morgan’s political and financial clout could fuel their cause to victory.

“In Florida, John Morgan is the biggest friend the issue ever had,” said Jack Tanner of Fort Myers. He is a member of the Lee Liberty Caucus, a group first organized to back Ron Paul for president in 2008. “John Morgan knows how to do things, and he has the money to back it up.”

Morgan joined and is now chairman of the political committee of People United for Medical Marijuana, which was founded as a grass-roots organization four years ago by Orlando resident Kim Russell. Russell said in an interview Ben Pollara, a lobbyist and fundraiser for the President Obama re-election campaign, brought together her and Morgan. According to published reports, Morgan has said marijuana helped ease his father’s suffering as he was dying of cancer. Pollara is now treasurer of the group.

Clemens believes if the issue goes to a ballot, it will pass. “That to me is a done deal. As far as I’m concerned, the question becomes whether the Legislature wants to be pre-emptive,” or wait until people approve it themselves, he said.

The arguments

Not everyone is pleased about the possibility.

“The whole issue of marijuana as medicine I’m not sure is a legitimate argument,” said Deborah Comella, executive director of the Lee County Coalition for a Drug-Free Southwest Florida. “Do I think we need to have marijuana legalized for some people to get better? No.”

First, what is needed is to see what compounds are in smoked marijuana that makes it effective “and we need to get the FDA involved and get it produced in a safe way,” Comella said. “Find out what works and what makes it a safe substance so we can prescribe it. “

Anthony Cincotti, 41, of Cape Coral, said he used medical marijuana safely and effectively after he was injured on the job in 2008 as a corrections officer in Nevada. Cincotti said he was on 14 medications, including anti-spasmatics, muscle relaxants, and 20 mg of oxycodone every four hours, after he suffered a tear in his spinal cord. Some of the medications were taken to offset the side effects of other medications, he said.

Then a doctor suggested he try medical marijuana and gave him a prescription. Before he took it, he did online research to look at the pros and cons, including the fact it was supposed to be a “gateway” drug, Cincotti said.

“If anything, it was a gateway away from opiate medications for me,” he said Thursday. Within a month, he had better mobility and was able to drop 10 of 14 medications, Cincotti said. “It dramatically increased my quality of life.”

When he moved to Florida, the relief he got from medical marijuana ended, he said. Taking Tylenol and ibuprofen along with muscle relaxants doesn’t cut it, but he believes marijuana will be legalized for medical use in Florida soon.

“It’s literally a matter of time,” he said.

Trends

Support for legalizing medical marijuana in Florida has grown to 70 percent, according to a survey conducted early this year by the Hamilton Campaigns consulting group for People United for Medical Marijuana.

The number reflects rising support across the country, said Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project, a national group which works “to end marijuana prohibition and the criminalization of seriously ill people who use it for medical purposes,” he said. The project believes marijuana should be regulated and taxed, similar to alcohol.

The Pew Research Center in Washington announced in April that for the first time, its polls show a majority of Americans (52 percent) support making marijuana legal.

There are 18 states along with the District of Columbia that have passed legalization laws, Tvert said.

There are 11 states with pending legislation to legalize medical marijuana, according to the nonprofit procon.org. They are: Alabama, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and New York.

 

Copyright © 2013, News-Press.com

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Showing 11 reactions

commented 2013-07-08 06:16:11 -0400 · Flag
People need to realize President Nixon lied about the Shafer report.
commented 2013-06-24 08:53:18 -0400 · Flag
Mr Clemens, I sincerely hope that you are correct in your assumption that if the issue goes to a ballot, it will pass. These Draconian laws that prohibit the possession of Marijuana are outdated and outlandish and are detrimental to the welfare of our state. Legalizing Marijuana and subsequent taxation would help our overall economy and emancipate all those that have been incarcerated for this God given herb. We need level-headed politicians to push this bill through the house, it is more than likely that this will be the most important decision you will ever make. Do it for all the people that will benefit from this Landmark decision. It is undoubtedly the most sane thing that can be done to change the insanity surrounding Marijuana and bring about change for the greater good of all people, user’s and non-user’s. I encourage everyone that reads this to contact your local politicians and urge them to help us win the battle to legalize Marijuana and provide a society that is well balanced,lawful,pain-free and healthy. This Can Be Done, it is high time that we screw our heads on tight and pass this bill. Let’s Roll!
commented 2013-06-23 08:05:08 -0400 · Flag
Waiting for the petition to come out my signature will be there. It’s past time for FLA to get on board with medical marijuana; the rest of the country will follow suit in time.
commented 2013-06-21 15:01:28 -0400 · Flag
Gateway drug it would be like coffee as far as a drug had you not have done Reefer Madness in the 50’s Ronald Reagans Just Say No. If nobody had made a big deal then this never would have happened. It was more less to stop hippies and arrest them that was 50 yrs ago. WAKE UP campaign.
commented 2013-06-17 02:21:50 -0400 · Flag
We all want to sign this please! My fiancee and I know alot of kids in Fl who have diseases and it’s like this everywhere! The huge corporations want to make citizens turn to all the other drugs when in fact weed cures or eases the pain of epilepsy, cancer, glaucoma(eye cancer), muscle spasms, young girls and young men with eating disorders, kids who have HIV or AIDS and other minor problems such as headaches, backaches, and insomnia. All that aside, smoking isb’t always the best, that is why it has been my dream to open a bakery and cook it into breads and cakes. It’s as simple as cooking anything else you would eay, you could even put it in a salad..
commented 2013-06-11 16:32:38 -0400 · Flag
Let me know when the petition for the state of Florida comes out (at my email.)Thanks.
commented 2013-06-11 16:31:49 -0400 · Flag
Let me know when the petition comes out.
commented 2013-06-10 03:29:58 -0400 · Flag
That is indeed really fucked up, Mike; I know an old Vietnam vet who loves pot, but they have him taking Diladids instead. Those are hardcore, very addictive narcotic opiates, but he does not take them much. It sucks though that he has to take them and can’t smoke pot when they drug test though. I myself was shocked and appalled for one that they drug test and secondly that they would even care about pot being in his system. I could kind of understand making sure he has the pills in his system so he does not sell them instead, but to be worried about marijuana and punish a grown ass man is ridiculous. And this is the VA we’re talking about. In America, I guess we don’t discriminate; nobody gets adequate health treatment. Marijuana legalisation can’t come soon enough. Alot of people will be able to finally get some real, permanent, stress free relief finally and the pharmaceutical companies and doctors will just have to suck it.
commented 2013-06-07 00:03:31 -0400 · Flag
I live in Lee County, Florida and I have been known do deal with my depression at times with alcohol and that is dangerous, not marijuana. I have not had a drink in over three months, but it’d be a lot better if we had access to medicine that works aka medical marijuana. Ideally it should be like Colorado and as long as you’re 21 and up you should be able to use it recreationally, but if Florida passes even a half ass version of some medical marijuana bill, even if it is so half ass that it does not benefit me, it will still help some people and be a defining step in the right direction.
commented 2013-06-04 23:28:47 -0400 · Flag
Medical Marijuana legislation is scientifically, ethically, morally, and spiritually the path we must continue to purse at this point. Let’s keep telling people about United for Care!!!
followed this page 2013-06-04 15:06:19 -0400