My dedication to legalizing medical marijuana results from personal experience. My daughter has epilepsy, and although she was always compliant with her medication, she continued to have occasional seizures. When she moved to California for her job, and had yet another seizure, she met with a neurologist, who recommended that she join a medical marijuana dispensary. That was in 2000. She has not had another seizure since.
But she cannot come home to visit us in Florida. Because of our marijuana laws, she cannot legally maintain her doctor-recommended medical regimen.
Currently, there are bills in the Florida House and Senate that would allow for medical marijuana use. The bills would benefit Florida agriculture, as they specify that any cannabis sold in Florida would have to be grown in Florida. A recent poll indicates that 70 percent of Florida voters favor allowing patients to medicate with marijuana.
The Florida Legislature has to address the issue of reform of the archaic drug policies that currently are in effect in our state. Eighteen states plus Washington, D.C., have laws on the books that permit use of medical cannabis (marijuana) for patients who meet certain criteria.
In Florida, where many of our residents are retirees, the use of medical cannabis would be a huge solution to the problems of insomnia, arthritis and other conditions that plague seniors. Patients suffering from the side-effects of chemotherapy and other medical treatments that cause discomfort would get relief from cannabis with no cost to the state or Medicare.
Tourists, who make up a large chunk of our economic health, who are legal patients in their home states, would be able to come to Florida knowing that they would be able to continue their medical regimen, just as with any other medicine. Their tourist dollars would not go to states like Colorado or California, or any of the other states where they would be legal.
AS Director of NORML of Florida, I am in the unique position of hearing from many of our residents regarding this issue. I get phone calls and emails constantly asking me when the law will change in Florida. I get calls from patients who cannot understand why they can't use the medicine that they feel will benefit them the most for their ailments, such as chronic pain, PTSD, glaucoma and even ALS. Cannabis has been shown to be effective treatment for all of those problems, with no harmful side effects. There has never been a death attributed to marijuana. The same cannot be said for commonly prescribed drugs such as Oxycodone and Xanax.
Florida legislators must seriously consider the bills in front of them. If they are allowed to die in committee without being heard and discussed, a great disservice would be done to the very voters who elected these officials and to the people, like my daughter, who would benefit from medicinal marijuana.
Karen Goldstein is director of NORML of Florida and has spoken at Democratic Club meetings, Civic Associations, City Commission meetings and Florida Legislative Delegation hearings in both Miami-Dade and Broward counties. She has also presented at The Silver Tour, which explains the benefits of medical marijuana to Florida seniors.
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