Forum held to discuss medical marijuana debate in Florida

By Laurie Davison

A room full of passionate people came together on Thursday to discuss the pros and cons of legalizing medical marijuana in the state of Florida.

People packed into a conference room at St. Petersburg College’s Seminole campus to debate Amendment Two. In November, Floridians will get a chance to vote on whether regulated dispensaries to sell pot for medical purposes should be legal.

Ben Pollara who works for the organization sponsoring the amendment calls it a medical necessity.

"This is about patients,” said Pollara. “This is about people who are really sick and suffering. This is not about people getting high recreationally. This is about healing pain and suffering."

But he was challenged by Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri who fears getting medical marijuana will be too easy and will lead to abuse.

"This is about money,” said Gualtieri. “It's about making money, it's about a segway to recreational use."

Several people who say they smoke pot now for medical reasons spoke out during the debate.

One cancer patient told the crowd it's helped him control his pain and regain his appetite.

“If anything it makes me happy, makes me hungry, makes me healthier,” said Haydon Fouke.

But others oppose legalizing medical marijuana say it will wind up being used for the wrong reasons.

"I believe that this is actually a ruse,” said Lynn Posyton. “I don't believe this is a medical issue at all, and when you do not have any restraint you're opening the door."

They did take an informal, unscientific survey at the forum and nearly 75 percent of the people in the room said they support legalizing medical marijuana.

If the amendment passes, it would include some steps a patient would have to take before they could purchase the marijuana.

First, a doctor would have to certify that the pot could help the patient's debilitating illness and then the person would have to get a special identification card in order to purchase the product.

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Copyright 2014, Bay News 9

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